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Greece, Spain pick up Euro 2004 victories

Posted: Sunday, June 13, 2004

PORTO, Portugal (AP) In the biggest opening game upset in European championship history, Greece beat host Portugal 2-1 Saturday to mark the start of the three-week soccer showcase.

Georgios Karagounis and Angelis Basinas scored for Greece, which recorded its first victory in a major championship. This was the first time the host dropped the opener since the group format was introduced in 1984.

''We started too nervous, we got more shots on goal in the second half but we couldn't turn it round,'' said Portugal coach Luis Felipe Scolari, whose team is in danger of elimination.

In the day's other Group A game, Spain defeated Russia 1-0 in Faro. Juan Carlos Valeron scored in the 60th minute, seconds after entering as a substitute.

Russia has not advanced past the opening round of a major competition since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Spain won its only major title in 1964, beating Russia in the final of the European championship.

The opening ceremony for the 16-team event in Porto featured a display in which the emerald playing surface briefly turned blue, with hundreds of hooded figures creating an artificial ocean on the field.

Sailing on the field was a replica of the wooden boat Portuguese navigators used in the 15th century to begin their quest for new lands.

Portuguese authorities have assembled an unprecedented security operation for the tournament. The plan assumed greater urgency in March when terrorists struck neighbor Spain in deadly bombings.

Sunday's game in Lisbon between France and England could test the host's ability to handle potentially violent crowds. England has been warned it could be kicked out of the tournament if its unruly fans don't behave.

About 30,000 English fans are expected in Lisbon even though many don't have tickets. Authorities are placing 600 officers in and around stadium, as well as 700 stewards.

Karagounis put the Greeks ahead in the seventh minute to stun fans at the Dragao Stadium, home of Champions League winner FC Porto.

''We each gave the best we could and this great victory came,'' Karagounis said. ''This is a great day for us, Greek soccer and the Greek people.''

Basinas added the second goal with a penalty kick six minutes into the second half after Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo brought down Giourka Seitaridis.

Ronaldo scored the lone Portuguese goal in the third minute of injury time when he headed home a corner kick by Luis Figo.

Portugal, which qualified automatically as the host, next plays Russia on Wednesday. But it still has to face Spain in its final Group A game.

The 12th European championship almost had a goal in the opening minute on a shot by Angelos Charisteas, but Greece didn't have to wait much longer.

Karagounis ran through midfield and got off a low shot that went off the fingertips of a diving Ricardo Pereira inside the left post.

In Athens, many celebrated the victory by blaring car horns or throwing firecrackers.

''It was a dreamlike start for our team,'' Greek midfielder Stelios Giannakopoulos said.

Greek Premier Costas Caramanlis sent his congratulations to the team.

''With its historic victory tonight, our national team won the respect of European fans and filled every Greek with emotion,'' he said.



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