Football: EURO 2004: Canny Rehhagel Undoes the Hosts; Greece's Triumph Isn't Popular with Some, Including Martyn Ziegler

Article excerpt

Byline: Martyn Ziegler

The cheers of 'PortugalOle!' that have echoed around the country for the last four weeks fizzled out into miserable, regretful silence.

Greece, who had never before won a single match in a major tournament, had just achieved perhaps the most astonishing success in the history of international football by winning Euro 2004.

Have no doubt about it, this will send shock waves through the game - indeed Uefa are already putting forward measures to try and combat the reasons that have seen the best individual players in Europe struggle to reproduce their talent in Euro 2004.

It is easy to feel cheated, to have wished that Portugal had triumphed in front of their own fans, that the streets of Lisbon would be packed once more with wildly-celebrating crowds.

For Greece are not a side that make many friends. Knowing their strengths, and even more importantly knowing their weaknesses, their German coach Otto Rehhagel has turned man-to-man marking and defensive strength into an art form.

But Greece deserve their place in history for this was no fluke - and neither were their previous victories against the hosts, against France and against the Czechs.

So it was not the glitzy final, bringing together famous names in Europe, that had been foreseen at the start of the tournament - your average man in the British street would have been hard-pressed to come up with more than one member of the Greek side.

And having seen the Greeks' approach to previous games, it was no surprise that for long spells this was about as pleasurable as a session in referee Markus Merk's dental surgery. For the majority of the game the Greeks hustled the hosts out of their stride and as soon as they lost possession made sure they had at least seven, usually eight, outfield players behind the ball. Portugal had little answer to the man-to-man marking, their best hope looking to be when the intricate close control of Cristiano Ronaldo teamed up with full-back Miguel down the right. That avenue closed though, not soon after one leggy run and stinging drive by Miguel, when the former winger limped off.

Other than that, Portugal had to content themselves in the first half with one low shot by Pauleta from distance and a 20-yard strike from Maniche a yard wide while their best passing move of the half ended with Miguel and Pauleta colliding in the Greek penalty area. …