Despite losing their final Group A qualifier, Greece reached the quarter finals of Euro 2004, by virtue of Portugal defeating Spain in Lisbon.
Qualification for the knock out stages represents a remarkable achievement for Otto Rehhagels’ unheralded team. Widely derided before the tournament started,
Greece have exceeded expectations in emerging from a tough qualifying group.
Russia, with only pride to play for after losses to Spain and Portugal, seemed unshackled by their situation and produced their best performance of the competition.
Greece got off to the worst possible start when an error allowed Dmitri Kirichenko to poke home the opening goal on 65 seconds and in doing so, become the quickest scorer in the history of the competition.
To compound matters, Rehaggel’s side conceded a second goal on 17 minutes when Dmitri Bulykin was left unmarked at a corner and allowed to power in a diving header past Nikopolidis.
At this stage, Greece looked nervous and they could have fallen further behind when Andrei Kariaka was left free 15 yards out, but he produced a feeble shot.
Greece eventually got back into the game two minutes before the break when Zisis Vryzaslofted the ball over Russian keeper Vyacheslav Malafeyev.
After the break, Greece, aware that they would go through if the score remained the same in Lisbon, adopted a more disciplined approach.
Indeed, Greece almost grabbed an equaliser when Vassilios Tsiartas’ free-kick was well saved by Malafeev.
There was one final scare for the Greeks with three minutes remaining when Kirichenko almost slid in to score for Russia.
So, Greece go through to the knock out stage of a major competition for the first time in their history. It represents a staggering achievement for a country unused to performing on the big stage and confirms Otto Rehhagel’s reputation as one of the shrewdest coaches in the business.
Greece 1-2 Russia
– Greece Zisis Vryzas 43
– Russia Dmitry Kirichenko 2, Dmitry Bulykin 17
Greece:1-Antonis Nikopolidis; 2-Yourkas Seitaridis, 19-Michalis Kapsis, 5-Traianos Dellas, 3-Stelios Venetidis (14-Takis Fyssas 89); 9-Angelos Haristeas, 21-Costas Katsouranis, 7-Theodoros Zagorakis, 6-Angelos Basinas (10-Vassilis Tsartas 41), 22-Dimitrios Papadopoulos (11-Demis Nikolaidis 69); 15-Zisis Vryzas.
Russia:12-Vyacheslav Malafeyev; 16-Vadim Yevseyev, 13-Roman Sharonov (17-Dmitry Sennikov 56), 21-Alexei Bugayev, 14-Alexander Anyukov; 5-Andrei Karyaka (6-Igor Semshov 46), 2-Vladislav Radimov, 15-Dmitry Alenichev, 8-Rolan Gusev; 9-Dimitry Bulykin (3-Dmitry Sychev), 18-Dmitry Kirichenko.
Referee: Gilles Veissiere (France)