champion France was knocked out of the European Championship on
Friday night, losing 1-0 to Greece in a quarterfinal that became
the latest upset in a tournament filled with surprising results.
For the first time
in the history of the quadrennial event, which began in 1960,
Europe's five biggest soccer powers all failed to make the
semifinals. Germany, Italy and Spain were eliminated in the
first round, and England lost its quarterfinal to Portugal on
scored in the 66th minute on a header. Greek captain Theodoros
Zagorakis chipped the ball over Bixente Lizarazu and sped down
the field and crossed to Charisteas, who beat goalkeeper Fabien
``We made a great
effort against a major squad and we justified our presence here.
Everything is possible now,'' Charisteas said. ``We realized
that throughout this game, at least for 90 minutes, we had to be
completely focused, completely concentrated.''
almost tied the score with three minutes left, but his powerful
header went wide.
``We started to
play only when it was too late,'' French defender Lilian Thuram
It was another
disappointing exit for France, which won the 1998 World Cup and
followed up two years later by winning the European title.
France was knocked out of the 2002 World Cup in the first round
but going into Friday had been unbeaten in 22 consecutive games
since a 2-0 defeat to the Czech Republic on Feb. 12, 2003.
thinking clearly towards the end of the match,'' said France
coach Jacques Santini, who is leaving to become coach of
Tottenham Hotspur in England. ``We were just rushing forwards,
and that was not the best way to go about it. It's a big
disappointment. We had hoped to get to the final.''
After the final
whistle, the bewildered French players slumped to the ground in
``I'm upset about
the goal. I saw the ball and committed myself too early,''
Lizarazu said. ``It's hard to judge this match. We had the
impression we dominated in every department.''
jubilant Greeks rushed toward their fans, linking arms and
jumping up and down in celebration. A sign on the bus carrying
Greek players carried the slogan: ``Ancient Greece had 12 Gods.
Modern Greece has 11.''
``This is a great
sensation,'' Greece coach Otto Rehhagel said. ``The people from
New York to Rio to Tokyo will hear about this.''
In only its third
major tournament and in the final four for the first time,
Greece plays the winner of Sunday's quarterfinal between the
Czech Republic and Denmark, the 1992 champion. Portugal meets
the winner of Saturday's game between Sweden and the Netherlands,
the 1988 champion.
Thousands of fans
started to gather in Athens' Omonia Square minutes before the
final whistle, waving Greek flags and singing the national
anthem. Some cried with joy and embraced. The city was
illuminated as fireworks formed a bright drape over the
Acropolis and other monuments.
``All Greeks across
Greece celebrate today a just victory, the historic
qualification of our national team to the four best teams in
Europe,'' Prime Minister Costas Caramanlis said in a statement.
``Our players made us all proud.''
In other Euro news:
Trapattoni was replaced by Marcello Lippi as Italy's coach, and
Inaki Saez resigned as Spain's coach. Germany's Rudi Voeller
quit on Thursday.
-- David Beckham
defended his role as England's captain, a day after he missed
the first penalty kick of a shootout and his team was ousted by
Portugal. ``I will not be resigning my position. I am proud to
be England captain,'' he said. He also blamed the condition of
the field for the wild kick. European soccer's governing body
called the fields at Euro 2004 ``outstanding.''
-- Police said
there were minor disturbances between fans on the southern
Algarve coast after Portugal beat England, but no arrests were
made. In Thetford, England, police escorted a group of
Portuguese fans to safety after they were besieged in a pub by
more than 100 England fans. Eleven people were arrested.