It’s a quiz question that stumps even the most talented quiz goer. Who won the 2004 European Championships? Maybe the big-hitters of France, or even consistent underachievers England broke their tournament duck?
Nope, it was the footballing giants Greece, who caused one of the shocks in major tournament history to land the prestigious prize in Portugal. It was an achievement that no-on, and I mean, no-one saw coming – their pre-tournament price of 150-1 pretty much summed up how unfancied they were.
However, as Greece went quietly about their business in the Group stages, all the big guns around them started to be eliminated. Germany, Spain and Italy were all knocked out early on which left Greece a rather open-looking path to the latter stages.
Despite this, they still beat France and Czech Republic on route to the final and in process became the first team in European Championship history to defeat both the holders (France) and the hosts (Portugal) in the same tournament.
Their game was very much more substance over style as they had to defend with their back against the wall for large periods of the matches but no team could find a way to really break down the stubborn Greek defence. An Angelos Charisteas header was enough to win the final against the hosts 1-0 to the amazement of the on-watching world.
The man who led them to that’s success German master tactician Otto Rehhagel moved on to pastures new in 2010 but his good work, which including leading them to their first ever appearance in a World Cup in 2006 and the in 2010, has been continued by Fernando Santos.
The new coach has come in with his own philosophies but has stuck to the traditional disciplined way in which Greece were so successful under Rehhagel.
They went through qualifying for EURO 2012 unbeaten in Group F, only conceding five goals along the way – in true Greece style they remained hard to beat but never looked overly impressive in doing so.
From seven wins, five were achieved by just a one goal margin against Israel (home and away), Latvia, Georgia and Malta.
But they amassed enough points to top the group ahead of Croatia and have bagged a very weak group in the Euros, alongside Russia, hosts Poland and Czech Republic, which they are a very tasty looking 9/2 (Boylesports) to win the Group.
Although a repeat of their 2004 success looks unlikely and won’t have many takers at around the 66-1 (Ladbrokes) mark.
As with all Greek sides, individual talent is hard to come by as their game is focused on work-rate and defensive solidarity but in Sotiris Ninis they may have a star of the future on their hands.
The 21-year-old attacking midfielder was a key component in Greece’s qualification campaign before suffering cruciate ligament damage moments after scoring a wonder goal in their win over Israel last year.
He has fully recovered from that setback and has subsequently signed a deal to move from Panathinaikos to Parma in the summer, which suggests the talented youngster hasn’t lost any of his spark despite the injury.
He could be the difference between the sides in carious Group games.
As a result of Greece’s past success they now have built themselves a bit of a reputation at international level and need to be taken seriously by any potential rivals.
Although not possessing the potent ammunition of a Spain or a Germany, Greece will be a side that no-one would want to play in a knockout match.
As shown by their 2004 victory, the Greeks have a wonderful team ethos within the camp and they could be once again be the dark horses of another European Championships.