LISBON, Portugal For Greece, this could be the final dazzling step in a remarkable journey. For Portugal, this could be the ultimate payback.
The European Championships, in the unlikeliest of pairings, end Sunday at the Stadium of Light, with host Portugal looking to make up for its opening loss to Greece and win its first major title.
The Greeks, who until this event had never won a game at the Euros or World Cup, beat Portugal 2-1 three weeks ago in the biggest opening-game upset in the tournament's 44-year history.
Now the outcome doesn't look so embarrassing.
The Greeks, coached by Otto Rehhagel of Germany and 100-1 long shots at the outset, went on to tie Spain, defeat defending champion France in the quarterfinals and beat the hottest team, the Czech Republic, in the semis.
Portugal wants to wipe away memories of its opening defeat and impose itself on a Greek team relying on strong defense and teamwork.
''We're working on correcting what went wrong last time,'' said Portugal midfielder Nuno Maniche, who scored on a 22-yard shot in the 2-1 semifinal victory over the Netherlands. ''We'll need to be patient and disciplined. They close down well, they're very organized.''
The Greeks insist they have become stronger as the tournament progressed.
''The first match is over, it doesn't mean a thing,'' said Greek defender Traianos Dellas, who scored seconds from the end of the semifinal against the Czech Republic.
''A lot of things are changed in the middle and we will have to face a completely different Portugal, stronger. But they will also find Greece, with a great soul, even better than in the opening match.''
Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari guided Brazil to its fifth World Cup two years ago. The Brazilian can become the first coach to win both the World Cup and European titles with different teams.
But he must find a way to unravel a Greek defense that has proved unshakable. Dellas and Georgios ''Giourkas'' Seitaridis have been the stars of a well-organized back four. Missing the final will be Georgios Karagounis, who was booked in every game he played and will serve his second suspension of the championship.
The Greeks must try to stifle Portugal's attack, probably by putting two defenders on Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Figo whenever they have the ball. Greece may crowd the midfield to make sure Deco and Maniche don't get room and leave striker Angelos Charisteas alone in attack.
Figo was at his best when Portugal outplayed the Dutch in the semifinal, and Portugal will need another big game from him. While Figo, Rui Costa and Fernando Couto represent the old guard, teenage winger Ronaldo has scored twice and thrilled the home fans with his runs down the flanks.
Maniche, who has also had a standout tournament, is one of six players from FC Porto, which won the Champions League a month ago. Now the national team bids to follow that triumph with its first title.
''Winning on Sunday would be the crowning moment of a fantastic season,'' he said. ''I'm really fired up to play and get a trophy for Portugal.''
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