Slick Greece shock holders
A goal after 65 minutes by Angelos Charisteas sent the defending champions crashing out of the competition along with fellow former winners Italy, Germany and Spain. France, with Thierry Henry struggling to re-produce his best form and Patrick Vieira out injured, were heavily reliant on the skills of Zinedine Zidane, but for once the great man was unable to inspire his team-mates sufficiently.
Three new faces
Greece coach Otto Rehhagel made three changes to the side beaten by Russia in their final group match, striker Demis Nikolaidis making his first start of the tournament, midfield player Georgios Karagounis returning from suspension and Panagiotis Fyssas preferred to Stylianos Venetidis at left-back. For France injuries to Vieira and Willy Sagnol gave Olivier Dacourt and William Gallas starting places.
Nikolaidis, Greece's leading goalscorer, was involved straight away, chasing down a flick-on from strike partner Charisteas but Lilian Thuram was across to cover for France. Fyssas then crossed dangerously for Charisteas but the SV Werder Bremen man could not quite get his head to the ball.
Karagounis wasted little time in adding another yellow card to his collection, this time for holding back Zidane - before the half was out, the compliment would be returned - but Nikolaidis perked Greece up again with a decent snap-shot held head-high by Fabien Barthez.
A minute later Greece believed they had taken the lead when Karagounis' inswinging free-kick was met at the far post by Konstantinos Katsouranis but Barthez was adjudged to have intervened before the whole of the ball had crossed the line.
Greece on top
Aside from a Thierry Henry header that flew just over after good work from Zidane and Bixente Lizarazu, France were struggling to find a rhythm. Greece, prompted by captain Theo Zagorakis and inspired by Fyssas' left-wing incursions, were taking full advantage, Katsouranis and Fyssas both calling Barthez into action, the latter spectacularly so as the French goalkeeper tipped over a long-range volley.
The Greeks departed for the interval with their fans jumping for joy, knowing they were in with a real chance of springing the biggest surprise of the championships; France by contrast left to a resounding chorus of disapproval from their fans. But from the restart there was more urgency about them, Henry shooting just wide in the opening minutes and Zagorakis being booked for a rash tackle on Robert Pires.
Their best moments thus far came in the 57th minute. The veteran Bixente Lizarazu, winning his 98th cap for France, stormed through the inside-left channel and was only stopped by a brave challenge from Mihalis Kapsis, who moments later headed out from under his own crossbar under pressure from David Trezeguet following an Henry cross.
But then France's world fell apart. Zagorakis, haring down Greece's right flank, cleverly flicked the ball beyond Lizarazu and sent over a measured cross for Charisteas. His header, from near the penalty spot, was textbook precision and Barthez had no chance as the ball flashed past him. French coach Jacques Santini promptly threw forwards Louis Saha and Sylvain Wiltord into the fray, at the expense of Dacourt and Trezeguet.
Saha caused a flutter in Greek hearts as he skipped past Kapsis but his shot was smothered by Antonios Nikopolidis. Henry, at last inspired, then embarked on the kind of slaloming run that is his trademark but to no avail as the final shot was a weak one, and then he headed wide from a better opening, summing up a frustrating night for the champions. The Greek party, though, was just beginning.
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