The Euro Cup like the World Cup has had some editions to remember for life time for its unexpected events, giving birth to legendary players and historic goals.
One such event was the victory of Greece Euro Cup 2004, a national team that by the beginning of the event had odds of 250 to 1 (later portrayed as 50 to 1) in becoming the champion, hence Greece winning the 2004 Euro Cup has been considered the greatest upset in the UEFA history. Definitely the highlight of Greek football.
Greece Road to the Euro 2004 Championship:
Euro Cup 2004 Highlights
For the Euro 2004 Portugal was the host and one of the top favorites to win the championship with a young Ronaldo in their squad.
16 teams contested for the cup, besides Portugal that gained that right for being the host. There were some surprises after the qualifiers like Latvia who made its first appearance in the Euro Cup after overcoming Turkey in the play-offs, and Greece that made a come back after 24 years to play for a second time in the Euro Cup.
In fact, Greece was considered so weak at the time that they had never won a championship game before. Qualifying to a great tournament had been Greece´s greatest achievement.
The first upsets began during the group stage, as in the opening game between Portugal vs Greece, Greece defeated the favorites, the hosts. Something that probably lit a fire in the players to believe they could win the cup. Germany, Spain and Italy were all eliminated in the group stages.
But the road was not easily paved for the Greeks as they faced-off the defending champions France in the quarter-finals, but everything has a beginning, here is how it all began.
Greece vs England 2001 – The Beginning
Greece 2 – 2 England
Greece did not win the Euro Cup by giving birth to magnificent players like France did with Platini back in the day or the Thierry Henry era that also had Zinedine Zidane.
Although the players performed at their best and were crucial in the victories, it was the game strategy and tactics, which has been quite documented by football strategy analysts that began with the national team manager Otto Rehhagel.
Ottto Rehhagel played his first game with Greece against England in 2001 during the advanced qualifying stages to the World Cup of 2002. Greece did not had a chance by that time to qualify but Rehhagel had to prepare its team for the Euro Cup.
In that game against England, Greece actually played very well without having the better part of ball possession. England was playing awfully having a hard time to reach the Greek goal and being out played for the entire match. Greece was successful thanks to a strict man-marking system, cutting out key players from free movement and blocking all dangerous passing paths. A highly defensive tactic with an aim at blocking the rival’s offense and only to target the goal during strike-backs or ball steals.
Greece almost won the match with this tactic but 15 minutes remaining in the game and England scored a majestic free kick to draw the game 2 – 2. With that score England was able to qualify to the World Cup thanks to results in the Germany game.
Greece first opened the score on Old Trafford and the pressure was on for the English. A second Greek goal almost happened with two vs one attackers right in the penalty zone of England´s goal, but the slow-decision taking of the attackers allowed the English defense to block the shot and deflect it away.
Then the free-kick show began with young David Beckham portraying some of his best skills with ground balls. With a perfect right side free-kick he kicked a header pass that was magnificently touched by another player with his head and into the goal. The Greek goalkeeper barely saw it coming.
But then Greece gets a chance at a free-kick and after a ball confusion in the penalty area and scores their second goal.
Beckham gets another chance at a free-kick right at the border of the penalty zone. A free kick freely awarded by the referee as there was no illegal action there, Beckham just dived to get the kick. He takes the shot at the ball kisses the net, but to the outside. Most of the crowd believed it to be a goal but it wasn´t, nerves were racking!
Finally, almost 15 minutes before the game ended Beckham gets another final chance with a free-kick. This time a little further from that penalty area but well centered. When he kicks the ball flies smooth and fast with a small effect that confuses the Greek goalkeeper who briefly starts for the wrong post. The ball goes into the net and it’s a final draw between England and Greece 2 – 2. An epic game for what it meant to England, qualifying to the World Cup with brilliant goals from an English legend like Beckham.
Greece on the other hand placed its first brick on the road to becoming the champions of Europe in one of the most “I can´t believe that happened” moments.
If you were a Value bettor this game and Greece´s progress during thr qualifiers would´ve been your clue to select a Value Betting team. With odds of 200 to 1 or even the concluding 50 to 1 an Euro Cup value betting strategy would´ve pocketed big money.
Watch England vs Greece 2 – 2 2001 World Cup Qualifiers:
Greece Football Strategy in 2004
Greece worked its way up the Euro Cup qualifiers and reached the final tournament, not playing brilliantly but getting the results they needed.
Their game was considered boring and rigid, extremely defensive and chess-like, it took out all the fun and passion from football but it worked .
This game style, were the manager was the big central piece winning the games, got Greece all the way up to the quarter finals of the Euro Cup.
Ok, they had beaten Portugal at their own home with young Ronaldo as fresh as ever in his footy skills, the world considered this as “one of those things that happen in football”, an upset, one in a hundred and sometimes the favorites lose.
But this was not going to be the case and football experts refused to see that smart positioning could null the effects of a best football team.
The strict man marking strategy works, not always as Greece did not win all of its matches and barely made it into the UEFA Euro Cup. Most of its games were won with a one goal difference.
Greece vs France Euro Cup Quarter Finals 2004
Greece 1 – 0 France
After advancing to the next stage and being paired by France many commentators and analysts considered this the end of a lucky strike for Greece. Their boring but effective system would fail against the current champions of the Euro Cup. They couldn´t be more wrong.
Greece kept their strategy in check but modified its formation accordingly to play against France. The one constant was to keep a man at back in order to cover from superior dribbling skills on the French side. The defense was a 3 to 4 man defense while France played 2 forward players which were marked by two men each with a sweeper.
Any movement by the French strikers was marked by one or two players without much room for movement. The skills and abilities of Trezeguet and Thierry Henry were nulled.
On the midfield Greece played with 4 players that prevented France from keeping possession for too long. As a whole Greece was playing 7 defense players, 1 goalkeeper and 3 strikers. But Fyass and Zagorakis were able to make long runs for the goal with 5 men close by to support them.
Zagorakis was able to cross the ball to make the only goal of the game. If you were to bet on these type of matches the best option would´ve been an Under bet, Greece won its games most of the time with a single goal. It was a time were deffense was preferred above goals.
Greece vs France 2004 Euro Cup goal:
Greece vs Czechs Republic 2004
By semi-finals people had begun to believe the Greeks knew what they were doing, but once more they were facing one of the best Czech Republic squad in history, not only in the Euro Cup history but of all time, that kept them tight against the goal. By the end the match was defined by a Silver Goal in extra time.
The Powerful Czech Republic of 2004
It was a brief spark of amazing football that lasted only through the Euro Cup and then it was gone. They were everything that the Greeks were not, attacking power and football rich skill.
Ja Kollar was a great header, Milan Baros was fast in the attack, Nedved, Poborsky and Rosicky who were all legends of their time. Tomas Galasek was the playmaker and they had the best goalkeeper at the time.
The Czech were 80% attacking power, with a strong midfield and 2 up-front attackers but still a fairly well defense in player skills. Their best option was to attack consistently, and that was their greatest problem .
When you know your rival´s strategy up-front you can move your players to counter them, and that is what the Greek´s did. While the Czech had no options to change their game play if their tactics were to be blocked.
It is said the Czech won one of the greatest games of the decade by beating Holland 3 – 2 after coming back in the second half from a 0 – 2 score. The final winning goal came 2 minutes before the final whistle blow through Baros and the Czech had quailed from the group of death.
It was an epic game of attacking power, Holland had a dream team composed of Sneijder, Robben, van der Vaart and Davids, who played the whole match with dark sunglasses.
Czech vs Netherlands Euro 2004:
After defeating the Dutch they did so again with the Germans in the final game of their group 2 – 1. The Germans had another dream squad of their own with Oliver Khan at the goal, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Miroslav Klose, Michael BallackBernd Schneider, Lukas Podolski and Philipp_Lahm.
Czech vs Germany Group Stages Euro Cup 2004
When it came time to face the Geeks the Czech were clear favorites. A strong offense always defeats a strong defense. But the Czech had been wounded since the game against Holland, they had lost their key player Pavel Nelved to an injury during the last minutes of that game.
Nevertheless the Czech dominated the game the entire match firing like madmen against the Greek goal, but unlucky to score. The game moved on to extra time and the odds changed. The Czech were exhausted and the Greeks seized the chance to pound as hard as they could against their goal. Many times the Greeks came close to scoring but a tired Czech defense responded however they could.
And in one of many corner kicks the Greeks found their goal thanks to a marvelous header.
Greece vs Czech Euro Cup 2004 – 1 – 0 Silver Goal:
The Czech wonder team saw its last game as one of Europes top teams at that time. After that they never truly recovered and failed at the World Cup 2006 losing to USA, Ghana and Italy. They didn´t qualify for Euro 2008 or World Cup 2010 even paired in the weakest of groups.
Greece vs Portugal Euro Cup Final Game
For the first time in FIFA history the opening match team reached the final stage to face-off once more. Portugal had recovered from the Greek defeat and picked up their game during the rest of the tournament. Once more they were facing those who took their pride away when the entire country was watching. It was time for revenge.
It was a match were young Ronaldo displayed his skills over and over again but most of the time being nulled by the effective defense. Scolari being a great manager failed to read the game and trusted the fate of their team mostly to jut that legendary player that Ronaldo was. Soon enough Ronaldo´s temper betrayed himself and failed to score in the clearest of occasions when he was alone with the keeper.
The Greeks on the other hand modified their defensive tactics to build more men as they needed too, tiring the Portuguese attackers and seizing the chance for a goal when they got it. Dance around your opponents until you tire them then strike. Easy, simple winning tactic.
Greece won the final match with a single goal from Angelos Charisteas.
Greece vs Portugal 1 – 0 Euro Cup Final 2004:
Greek´s triumph in the Euro Cup 2004 is known as the biggest upset in football history. Not only because of their struggle to qualify and overcome two of the greatest rivals for the title, France and Portugal, but because Greece had only qualified for two other major tournaments in its entire history, the UEFA Euro of 1980 and the 1994 FIFA World Cup, and in this last tournament they failed to win a single match.
*Learn how to bet on the Euro Cup and find opportunities like the one that occurred during this game, where the odds would’ve made those betting on Greece some big-time money.
 zonalmarking.net, Greece Euro 2004 Tactics, 2010
 zonalmarking.net, Teams of the Decade #8: Czech Republic 2004, 2010