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EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS 2004

Preview

Euro 2004 is the 12th edition of this tournament which began back in 1960. There were four groups of four teams in the first round determined by two years of qualifying groups and play-offs plus the hosts. The tournament is held every four years , two years apart from either World Cup.

History

Germany have won the tournament three times and France have won it twice. The previous results in the final are:

YEAR WINNER LOSER SCORE
1960 Soviet Union Yugoslavia 2-1
1964 Spain Soviet Union 2-1
1968 Italy Yugoslavia 1-1  REPLAY 2-0
1972 West Germany Soviet Union 3-0
1976 Czechoslovakia West Germany 2-2  PENALTIES 5-4
1980 West Germany Belgium 2-1
1984 France Spain 2-0
1988 Holland Soviet Union 2-0
1992 Denmark Germany 2-0
1996 Germany Czech Republic 2-1
2000 France Italy 2-1

Tournament

Euro 2004 showed the growing improvement in the smaller nations in Europe. This started in the group stage where every team was competitive and there were no easy matches. Only one team finished without a point, and it surprisingly was not Latvia who looked by far the weakest team heading into the tournament, although they knocked out 2002 World Cup semi-finalists Turkey in a play-off to qualify. Latvia showed their team spirit despite no big name players, almost defeating the Czech Republic before securing a goalless draw with Germany. The worst team in the group stage was instead Bulgaria who never recovered from two brilliant Henrik Larsson goals sparking a 5-0 win for Sweden over Bulgaria in their first game. The big countries were not very impressive, with many top players such as David Beckham and Raul being badly out of form. They often did not look as motivated as the smaller countries and this was possibly due to the heavy demands of the domestic season for big countries.

The opening match of the tournament showed that the big countries were going to struggle when the strong defence of Greece helped them defeat the host nation Portugal 1-0. This was the first ever win for Greece at a major international soccer tournament and would not be the last for the enthusiastic Greek crowds. Greece topped Group A, with Portugal recovering to finish second, defeating and knocking out their neighbour Spain who again underachieved at an international level. Two other big countries were eliminated along with Spain in Germany and Italy. Italy were undefeated and almost qualified but a last minute goal for Sweden ensured that they instead qualified along with Denmark. Italy was out after having the worst head-to-head record for the three teams tied on top. They were not helped when their star player Francesco Totti was suspended for the last two group games after being caught on camera spitting in an opponentís face.

Germany were in the toughest group, with a very strong Czech Republic side led by Pavel Nedved, and the Netherlands powered by the goal scoring of Ruud Van Nistelrooy, finishing ahead of them. In the last group the two big sides France and England both qualified, with France winning the match between the two sides in both teamís first match of the tournament. England led 1-0 until the ninetieth minute but let in two goals by Zinedine Zidane during injury time. England recovered from this defeat with the eighteen year old Wayne Rooney becoming a star, scoring two goals in each of the remaining two group games.

The quarter-finals opened with the most exciting match of the tournament between England and Portugal. The huge amount of English fans that travelled to Portugal meant that this was virtually a home game for England despite playing the host nation. The match ended 1-1 after normal time and 2-2 after extra time. Portugal dominated possession after an early goal from Michael Owen for England, and was unlucky not to score more. England was also unlucky with their star player Rooney being injured early and having to be substituted, and a late goal was controversially disallowed. This close match led to a penalty shoot-out, which was won 6-5 by the Portuguese. A Rui Costa miss cancelled out the David Beckham miss, and Ricardo saved Darius Vassellís penalty. Ricardo then stepped up to convert his penalty and win the match. In the second quarter-final France were disappointing as the Greeks again showed strong defence to earn a 1-0 win.

In the third quarter-final there was another penalty shoot-out after a goalless draw between Sweden and the Netherlands. The Netherlands had lost in penalty shoot-outs at the 1994, 1998 and 2002 World Cups and the 2000 European Championships. However, this time they were finally successful winning 5-4. In the last quarter-final young Czech striker Milan Baros continued his good form in the tournament by scoring two goals in a 3-0 win over Denmark. Baros had a poor injury-plagued club season with Liverpool but with the outstanding midfield passing of Nedved and Karel Poborsky he reached five goals for the tournament, which no other player matched.

In the first semi-final Portugal defeated Holland with their captain Luis Figo having an outstanding game. Figo was the only member of the Golden Generation to be in the starting side, with age finally catching up to the rest of the generation that was supposed to bring success. Another member Rui Costa started the tournament but was soon replaced by the younger playmakers Cristiano Ronaldo and Brazilian-born Deco. Manchester United eighteen year old Ronaldo was especially impressive continuing the trend of youngster being the star players of the tournament, showing more enthusiasm that already established stars.  Portugal finally reached their first major final and Brazilian coach Luis Felipe Scolari hoped to repeat his 2002 World Cup triumph with Brazil.

In the second semi-final the Czech Republic, who had previously won every match, could not unlock the Greek defence. The match ended goalless after normal time. Extra time was under silver goal rules where if a team was ahead after either half of extra time then they were victorious. Greece scored a goal with seconds to go in the first half of extra time to reach the final.

The final was a rematch of the opening game of the tournament and the result was identical. Greece became the surprising champions with a 1-0 win. Greece was soon to host the Olympic Games and capitalized on the sporting spirit within their country. German coach Otto Rehhagel organised an excellent defence and team spirit. They operated with five defenders, including two man-markers. This was combined with the counter-attacking and long crosses reaching the aerial power of Angelos Charisteas. Even when players were suspended or injured they were replaced without noticeable difference. The Greek captain Theodoros Zagorakis was named as player of the tournament.

 

There is a pdf file on the match details from the European Championships including goalscorers, man of the match awards, results, group tables, final awards and top goalscorers. This file can be found through the link below:

Portugal2004.pdf

 

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