Greece wins Euro 2004 soccer championship after beating Portugal 1-0

Athens, 5/7/2004, (ANA)

Valiant Greece beat host country Portugal 1-0 (halftime 0-0) in the final of the Euro 2004 Soccer Championship which was played at Lisbon's Da Luz Stadium on Sunday night.

Forward Angelos Haristeas scored with a header in the 57th minute following a corner kick by midfielder Angelos Basinas.

It is the first time in its history that the Greek national team wins a final in an international soccer championship.

Underdog Greece, who few believed would even qualify for the quarter finals, had also beaten Portugal 2-1 in the opening match of the competition on June 12.

Greece's stunning and impassioned performance is also greatly attributed to the team's German coach Otto Rehhagel.

Rehhagel, speaking at a press conference after the match, said that "it was an unusual achievement for Greek football and particularly for European football. The team played fantastic football. We took a lead in opportunities. Our opponents were technically better than us, but we prevailed. We could have won 2-0. The Greeks wrote history."

Immediately after the end of the match, the prime minister, political leaders, government officials and personalities warmly congratulated the Greek team.

Greeks took to the streets in all cities and towns throughout the country to celebrate the victory as did Greeks and Greek Cypriots in Cyprus and all over the world.


Greeks celebrate conquest of 'impossible dream' in nationwide street party - Heroes welcome planned for national team bringing home European Cup

Athens, 5/7/2004, (ANA)

Greeks reveled all night in a nationwide street party Sunday after its national soccer team's deja vu defeat of leading contenders Portugal in the Euro 2004 final in Lisbon, with national pride soaring as the "impossible dream" came true.

In a stunning 1-0 defeat of hosts Portugal at Lisbon's Da Luz stadium, the championship's underdog team managed a repeat of the Euro 2004's opening match in which Greece prevailed 2-1 over Portugal, to be crowned champions of Europe for the first time in their soccer history.

Team captain Thodoris Zagorakis was voted Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the final, but the hero of the day was indisputably Angelos Haristeas, who scored the winning goal with a header in the 57th minute, thrilling Greeks the world over that the dream could come true and bringing some 15,000 Greeks who had traveled to Lisbon for the match, including Greece's prime minister Costas Karamanlis, to their feet in ecstasy.

Da Luz stadium reverberated as the Greek fans roared with delight when coach Otto Rehhagel's "lions" lifted up the Cup. Greeks all over the world took to the streets as the night sky was lit up by fireworks, waving Greek flags and congregating in central squares for what turned into a border-to-border street party that lasted into the early morning hours.

A heroes' welcome has been planned for the national team upon their return home, with the Cup, during a special ceremony at Athens' ancient Kallimarmaro (Panathinaiko) stadium, at 8:30 p.m. Monday, organized by the Municipality of Athens, host city of the 2004 Olympic Games next month.

A smiling Karamanlis, speaking to TV camera crews in Lisbon after the final, expressed great pride in the players' achievement, saying they had glorified Greece's colors and given great joy to the Greeks all over the world. Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou, also in Lisbon for the final, echoed the sentiments, expressing pride at the team's accomplishment.

Similar messages were issued in Athens by parliament president Anna Psarouda-Benaki, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga, Coalition of the Left (SYN) leader Nikos Constantopoulos, Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece, Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos and Patriarch Irineos of Jerusalem, while former prime minister Costas Simitis, in a congratulatory cable, said the national team players ad "set an example on how distinctions are won", and congratulated them on the "strength of spirit, collective effort and ethos" they displayed throughout the entire tournament.

Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis said "this is a unique moment for all of Greece, it is indescribable".

"We all prayed, but did not believe that the time would come, for us to lift this Cup. It is a very good sign, as this is Greece's Olympics summer," she said, and thanked the players and their coach from the bottom of her heart.

"We will all be awaiting them tomorrow (Monday) at the Panathinaiko Stadium to welcome them as they deserve and to say a big thank you," she said.

Karamanlis, too, said that "this is the best passport, the best invitation, for the Olympic Games".

"This magnificent Greek summer continues on six weeks' time with the Olympic Games, and I believe that after this immense success of the national team, we expect significant performances from the Greek athletes in the Olympic Games as well," Karamanlis said, adding that the national team's players had, throughout the tournament, given "a lesson on what we Greeks can achieve when we truly believe in something, are united, and have self-confidence, dynamism and method in aspiring to it".

Australian prime minister John Howard, whose country hosted the Sydney 2000 Olympics that have been hailed as the best ever Olympic Games, said the Greek team's victory in the final against Portugal was "fantastic", and the harbinger of "fantastic Olympic Games in Athens".

"We anticipate surprises also at the Athens Olympics. We are so happy over their success," Howard said.


Athens welcomes Greece's Euro 2004 champions in splendid ceremony

ATHENS, 6/7/2004 (ANA)

In a splendid ceremony held at the Panathenaic stadium in central Athens on Monday night, tens of thousands of jubilant Athenians welcomed the Greek national soccer team which won the 2004 Euro soccer championship in Portugal.

At least 150,000 people were in and around the stadium waiting for the coach carrying the players to arrive.

Not only was there a slight delay in the scheduled arrival at Athens airport of the plane carrying the players, it took the coach  more than two and a half hours to arrive at the stadium from the airport as thousands of people thronged in front of it throughout the entire route. Moving at snail's pace, the coach finally arrived at the stadium at 10:30. The ceremony was initially due to start at 8:30.

With the situation prevailing within the stadium, it became impossible to respect the ceremonial program.

Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos, welcoming the Greek team and its coach Otto Rehhagel, said: "What you see here tonight is all Greeks united, irrespective of their political and sporting convictions, young Greeks holding the nation's flag and defining themselves through it. We have many years to see this. We are grateful to you."

The Archbishop offered to each player and the coach a golden cross.

Greetings were also addressed by Deputy Culture Minister responsible for sports George Orfanos, Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni who gave each player and the coach a medal and announced that all of them, including Rehhagel, were declared honorary citizens of Athens. Immediately afterwards, Alternate Culture Minister Fani Palli-Petralia gave them all the gold medal of the 1896 Olympic Games.

The ceremony closed with the singing of the national anthem.

On arrival at the stadium, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said that "we should create all those prerequisites for soccer and sports in general to be a great celebration, as it should be. A celebration at which all citizens participate, far from behind the scenes, far from the phenomena of violence, far from things which poison this sport." The second point he made was "how far can we Greeks reach, when we believe in something, when we are united, when we work methodically and systematically."

Referring to the sentiments which the Greek national team's victory caused, Karamanlis spoke of "a great joy which we all share today, millions of Greek women and men in every corner of the world" and he related the course of the Greek national team in the European championship to the projection of the country.

"Greece these days and particularly since last night, is at the lips of the entire world which observes this mass and magical sport which is called soccer through its link with sport," Karamanlis underlined. He added that "this great joy associates us even more with sport" and expressed the conviction that "it will reach its peak during the course of the Olympic Games."

Concluding, he directed "a very big thank you to all the players, the coach, but of course to this terrific tier of fans from Lisbon to Athens, from Canada to Australia."

On his part, main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader George Papandreou said on arrival at the stadium that Greece's victory in the Euro 2004 soccer tournament sends a message to the international community that "Greece can and wins when it wants, when we work collectively."

He termed the national team's victory "a great celebration for all of us, a national celebration."

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