Football: Euro 2004 : THE GOOD THE KEBAB &THE UGLY; EURO 2004 SPECIAL Credit Greece for Winning but Their Defensive Play Insults Beautiful Game
Byline: By Keith Jackson Chief football writer in Lisbon
AND to think they call it the beautiful game. Didn't feel so pretty yesterday as Portugal awoke to the realisation that their party had ended in tears and utter dismay.
The country is nursing a broken heart just when it felt sure that this time it was about to get the girl.
Instead, these proud people were left to sweep up the mess and to pretend to themselves that the hurt might start to ease upone day soon.
Worse still, they are trying to figure out how it could possibly be that they were dumped for the ugliest guest at the whole goddamn bash but then there never was any accounting for taste.
The Greeks disappeared from Lisbon yesterday almost as quickly as they had arrived.
Around 15,000 of them jetted into town in time for Sunday night's finale at the Stadium of Light their seats partly paid for by their own government.
It was the greatest smash--and-grab act of all time and it left all of Portugal feeling dirty and used.
Not that the Greeks felt any kind of remorse and nor should they. They came with nothing but ordinary, journeyman players and a coach who,despite continued success with Werder Bremen and Kasierslautern, was forced out of his homeland after a bitter split with Bayern Munich.
And yet they left as champions of Europe, although without ever giving off the impression that they should be.
It was a tremendous and historic achievement for Otto Rehhagel and his group and they certainly do not warrant any sneers from the purists because they carried off an expert job at making the most of what little they had.
They employed a game plan that helped them take on the best and they came through unscathed when no one gave them a chance.
But even so, this fairytale story was not a victory for football. What is good for the Greece is not necessarily good for the gander.
In fact, it suggests that the game in Europe is not half as strong as we thought it was or that the players we revere may not be just as talented as their pay--packets make them believe.
How else can you explain it? If they were really that good then surely they would have been able to come up with something special when it was needed most against a Greek side that was superbly drilled, immensely determined and made up of giants.
It should not be overlooked, of course, that these players are also technically sound and able to move the ball around in a way that seems all Greek to the likes of us Scots, and to our own quirky German leader.
But just because they are more proficient than our lot does not mean that they are ready to conquer the world. And yet here they are, having claimed Europe for themselves, despite previously amassing just one point from their only two appearances at major finals.
It defies belief and God only knows how the likes of Raul,Zidane, Nedved and Figo will square this with themselves when they reach the end of their careers.
Each of them came up against the Greeks but none of them could make a difference as one by one Rehhagel picked off the supposed cream of our game and crushed them into submission. …