| Greek forward Angelos Charisteas celebrates his goal in the Euro 2004 final against Portugal. (AFP)
Lisbon, July 4 (Reuters): Greece’s extraordinary Euro 2004 odyssey ended in a 1-0 victory over host Portugal in the final today as it was crowned European champions for the first time.
The outsider, which had never previously won a match at a major tournament, lifted the second-most prestigious trophy in the sport thanks to a 57th-minute header by striker Angelos Charisteas.
Greece then showed all the tenacious defending that had taken it further than even its most ardent fans could have dreamed of to hold off Portugal in a frantic final assault.
The victory was a triumph for Greece’s German coach Otto Rehhagel, who turned his adopted country from international also-rans to the cream of the continent in less than three years, in the process becoming the first foreign coach to win either the European Championship or the World Cup.
The result ended the dreams of Portugal, also appearing in their first final, and underlined again that Greece’s victory over the host in the tournament’s first game three weeks ago was no fluke.
Victory over France in the quarter-finals made it the first team to beat the host and the defending champion in the same competition, and Greece reached the final with a superlative team effort against the fancied Czech Republic.
Many thought that gruelling extra-time success on Thursday would leave Greece too drained to compete with the buoyant host nation, which had recovered from that opening blow to hit top form in their charge to the final.
But as others now watching from home have found, Greece, with its tactical discipline, strength and formidable work-rate have developed into a fearsomely difficult side to break down.
Off-target shots by defender Miguel and Maniche were all Portugal had to show for its effort in a scrappy first half, while goalkeeper Ricardo had to react smartly to smother at the feet of Charisteas in a rare Greek foray.
It was a half short of quality, though the massed ranks of around 15,000 Greek fans seemed unconcerned as they did their best to negate Portugal’s home advantage with a constant barrage of noise.
The blue-and-white decibel level went off the scale in the 57th minute, however, when Greece took the lead.
A driving run by fullback Yourkas Seitaridis earned Greece its first corner of the match and when Angelos Basinas delivered it into the goalmouth, Charisteas outjumped the flailing Ricardo to power his header into the net.
The striker, who also headed the goal that knocked out France, was immediately buried under a mass of celebrating players but Greece was quickly back on the defensive.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Figo both fired in firm low shots as Portugal, which had managed at least one goal in their previous 13 matches, upped the pace.
Ronaldo shot over again from close range in the 74th minute as substitute Rui Costa added extra invention to the home attack.
But, as it had so often during the tournament, Greece withstood it all to take the title.
Before the match began, Lisbon turned into a sea of red and green. Tens of thousands of Portuguese soccer fans took to the streets of the capital from midday, chanting and honking horns. Portuguese television followed live the passage of the team bus to the Luz stadium through cheering crowds.
Thousands of Greek fans had flown over for the game in the 65,000-capacity stadium.