SPORTS

Greece stretches winning run at stadium launch

Vassilis Tsiartas missed a penalty but scored later in the game to give Greece a 1-0 win over Switzerland Wednesday night in a soccer warmup for the Euro 2004 championships in Portugal. The result stretched Greece’s unbeaten run to 15 games; the impressive record gaining the country a berth in a European soccer championship final for the first time since 1980. It was Greece’s third win over Switzerland in 10 games played so far. The Swiss have four wins and three draws. Greece will play three more warmup games – the next one at the end of April against the Netherlands – before its clash with Portugal in the opening match of Euro 2004. Spain and Russia are also in Group A. Switzerland is in Group B with France, England and Croatia. The match was played at the newly built Pancretion Stadium in Iraklion, on the island of Crete, where 10 soccer games are scheduled during the August 13-29 Athens Olympic Games. «Up until the 60th minute, I was very pleased with the performance of the team but then I was troubled by the last half hour when the Swiss threatened to draw and we lost a number of opportunities,» said Otto Rehhagel, Greece’s coach. His Swiss counterpart, Jakob Kuhn, commended his players, while noting that Greece was capable of making an impact in Portugal. «Congratulations to my players who fought to the end and nearly tied the score,» said Kuhn. «The Greek team showed experience and may be the surprise of Euro 2004,» he added. Greece, encouraged by a sellout 27,000 crowd, went on the attack from kickoff, nearly scoring in the 11th minute. Atletico de Madrid striker Demis Nikolaidis received a perfect pass from Tsiartas but his header went wide with keeper Joerg Stiel out of position. In the 27th, Dutch referee Rene Temmink awarded Greece a penalty after Stephane Hencho fouled Nikolaidis in the area. Stiel dived low to his right and saved what seemed to be a well-placed penalty by Tsiartas. Two minutes later, Patrick Mueller cleared a shot by Stelios Yiannacopoulos just one meter from the Swiss goal. Tsiartas netted the game’s only goal with a blistering shot from the edge of the area after a perfect pass by Zissis Vryzas in the 57th. Stiel, one on one with Vassilis Lakis, used his leg to sweep away a shot in the 75th. The visitors’ best opportunity came in the dying minutes of the game but Raphael Wicky missed the target. (AP, AFP)