Euro 08 draws echoes of past

Defending champions Greece will meet two of the three teams it had encountered in the first stage of the 2004 European Championships in Portugal, following yesterday’s draw for the opening group games at next summer’s Euro 2008 finals in Austria and Switzerland. Drawn in Group D and scheduled to play its group games in Salzburg, Greece will begin the defense of its title against Sweden on June 10 before meeting the pair it had faced early on at Euro 2004, Russia and Spain, on June 14 and 18 respectively. The top two teams from each of the tournament’s four groups will advance to knockout encounters all the way to the final, to be contested at Vienna’s Ernst Happel stadium on June 29. The tournament opens on June 7 when Switzerland plays the Czech Republic in Basel. «It is certainly not an easy group. We must be careful against Sweden, which has one of the world’s best forwards in Zlatan Ibrahimovic,» remarked Greece coach Otto Rehhagel, who led the national team to the Euro 2004 title. «There’s always lots of talk before games. I am a man of action. The most important thing is to have all players in good condition. As defending champions, we have an obligation to do well in the tournament.» Following an unanticipated victory against hosts Portugal in the tournament opener back in 2004, Greece drew 1-1 against Spain and lost 2-1 against Russia to qualify for the quarterfinals. Ensuing wins against France, the Czech Republic and Portugal earned Greece the European title in one of international sport’s most remarkable upsets. Highlighting Greece’s shock triumph, bookmakers were offering odds of approximately 100 to 1 for a Greek title victory at the onset of Euro 2004.