The greatest football teams: Greece’s triumph at Euro 2004

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Throughout the history of soccer, there have been many shocks. Despite this, no underdog side has ever pulled off such an upset at an international tournament. Greece pulled off the impossible in 2004, winning a competition in which they were completely unfancied. Forget about being the football betting favourites for the tournament – they were odds-on favourites to be knocked out in the group stages, and went into every single game with all odds up against them. Over a decade later, they are still well-remembered.

Many people undervalue Greece winning Euro 2004 due to their defensive tactics in the latter stages. In truth, Greece adapted brilliantly to each game, changing styles effortlessly to win. If winning defensively was so easy, there would be more teams pulling upsets like Greece did. They were extremely resilient in the knockout stages of the tournament, as shown by three consecutive 1-0 victories in the knockout stages to win the tournament. Against France, in the quarter-finals, Greece won 1-0 with a headed goal. In the semi-finals, they won 1-0 from a headed goal. In the final against Portugal, they won 1-0 with a headed goal.

Otto Rehhagel did a brilliant job as Greece manager throughout the tournament. In the group stages, Greece beat Portugal 1-0 playing some good soccer. When the knockout stages came, however, Greece changed to a more defensive style. Against France in the quarter-finals, Greece played man-to-man defense. Another tactician who has employed this recently is Marcelo Bielsa, who did this with Athletic Bilbao against Barcelona, and with Marseille against PSG. France played a lopsided formation in this tournament, with Zinedine Zidane playing on the right side of midfield in a 4-4-2, with Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet up top as strikers. To cover this, Greece played two man-marking defenders and one player sweeping up. Trezeguet generally played centrally, so one center-back (Kapsis) marshaled him. Just as he did at Arsenal, Henry naturally dropped off to the left, allowing Greece to mark him with the right-back, Seitaridis. The left-back, Fyssas dropped back when having to cover Zidane. With Zidane moving centrally at times, Fyssas often had lots of space to go forward. Dellas, the second-center back, played as the sweeper. Greece virtually had three central midfielders covering this backline, with Karagounis playing just ahead. The formation played partly as a 4-3-1-2, but due to the man-marking, became lopsided when France’s formation was lopsided. With Czech Republic, who were quite probably the best side in the tournament, also playing a 4-4-2 formation (thereby two up top), Greece employed a similar formation.

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  1. Ivan June 2, 2015
    • Saad Rashid June 3, 2015

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