Heartbreak in final for Greek Under-19s

The Under-19 national soccer team may have lost 1-0 to Spain in the European Championship final on Friday, but the players filled Greek fans with pride and hope for the future of the sport in this country. Spain successfully defended its title thanks to a 38-minute goal from Daniel Parejo, which was Spain’s first real goal-scoring opportunity in the game. Parejo took a free kick quickly from the left and sent the ball straight into the net with Greek goalkeeper Kyriakos Stratilatis expecting the ball elsewhere. Sotiris Ninis, Costas Mitroglou and Thanassis Papazoglou missed glorious chances for Greece, which finished second in the tournament after reaching a European final at this level for the first time. Dozens of fans greeted the team at Athens airport on Saturday, showing their gratitude for yet another international soccer success story for Greece, which proved that the triumph at Euro 2004 in Portugal was no flash in the pan for the game in this country. Proud but disappointed, coach Nikos Nioplias said that the only thing his players needed was work: «This is a unique opportunity for Greek soccer to ensure it gets more success in the future, too,» he stated. Skipper Socratis Papastathopoulos, who was suspended for the final, said: «It was a great success. All the players have proven they can play in top sides and that the future belongs to them.» The president of the republic, the prime minister and political leaders issued statements on Friday congratulating the U19 team and its coach.

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