Greece kings of Europe
Portugal thus became the first host nation to lose a UEFA European Championship final and they will have to wait at least another two years to claim their first senior title. For the likes of Luis Figo and Rui Costa it was an agonising end to glittering international careers, but the Portuguese players can still look back with pride on the joy they have provided for their supporters over the past three weeks.
Portugal were unchanged from the team that beat the Netherlands in the semi-finals, the goal-poacher Pauleta preferred to the in-form Nuno Gomes in attack, while Greece made just one change, Stelios Giannakopoulos replacing the suspended Georgios Karagounis in midfield.
Perhaps contrary to some expectations, the game was an attractive spectacle from the start, with both sides playing fluently. Portugal's playmaker Deco was involved twice early on, combining with Pauleta and then Cristiano Ronaldo, but first Greece's captain Theo Zagorakis and then Traianos Dellas - man of the match in the semi-final win against the Czech Republic - made timely interceptions.
Pauleta was just beaten to a long through-ball by Greek goalkeeper Antonios Nikopolidis before Greece showed their class with a sweeping move down the right involving Konstantinos Katsouranis and Zagorakis that was only halted with a crude foul by Costinha on Giourkas Seitaridis, for which the Portuguese midfield anchor-man was booked.
Goalkeepers in action
Portugal hit back and Miguel, on his home ground, sent a powerful low drive fizzing across the face of the Greek goal and Nikopolidis had to tip the ball away in spectacular fashion. At the other end Ricardo was forced to race from the Portuguese line to deny Charisteas, who had been played in by Katsouranis.
A speculative Pauleta effort was saved comfortably enough by Nikopolidis but only a fine tackle from Dellas prevented Ronaldo causing havoc in the Greek area with his dancing feet. The hosts were getting on top and Maniche shot wide from a corner as the crowd held its breath, hoping for a repeat of his stunning goal against the Dutch.
Wall of sound
Mihalis Kapsis, doubtful for the game owing to a knee injury, then broke up another promising Deco-Ronaldo attack on the edge of the Greek area. At this point the Greek fans, heavily outnumbered, took the initiative on behalf of their fellow-countrymen and created a deafening wall of sound at the end Portugal were attacking and it was like a barrier that Portugal could find no way past for the remainder of the first half.
Just before the break Miguel's game was ended by injury and he was replaced at right-back by Paulo Ferreira, while Greece's Angelos Basinas became the second player to receive a yellow card for deliberate handball on the stroke of half-time.
The second half opened with a Pauleta effort that was blocked when he might have done better, a microcosm of his frustrating tournament, and then the unthinkable happened – Greece took the lead. A surging right-wing run from Seitaridis won them a corner which Basinas swung over and there was Charisteas climbing above Costinha to head in from close range.
Costinha was immediately withdrawn in favour of Rui Costa and the veteran midfield player nearly made an instant impact, tricking his way into the area before delivering a wayward final pass. Seitaridis was then cautioned and Figo shot straight at Nikopolidis as nerves inside the stadium and on the pitch began to fray.
Ricardo Carvalho had to be alert to prevent Zisis Vryzas doubling the Greek lead just past the hour-mark, and the home fans now did their best to rally their team. For a time Greece had their backs to the wall as Rui Costa, Deco and Figo probed for an opening, but the defensive discipline that has stood Rehhagel's team in such good stead throughout the tournament once again came to their rescue as Portuguese attacks broke down time after time.
Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari swapped Pauleta for Nuno Gomes with 17 minutes of normal time remaining and soon after that Ronaldo almost latched on to a long pass by Rui Costa but, off-balance, his shot was high and wide. Rui Costa himself went closer but his deflected shot was palmed away by Nikopolidis, while Figo also saw an effort rebound behind as Greece held on for a famous win.
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