The 2004 UEFA European Football Championship, better known as Euro 2004, was the 12th European Football Championship, a quadrennial football tournament for European national teams. It was hosted in Portugal, for the first time, between 12 June and 4 July 2004, following its selection by UEFA, in 1999, over rival bids from Spain andAustria–Hungary. As in the previous tournaments in England and Netherlands–Belgium, sixteen teams contested the final tournament after going through a qualification round, which began in late 2002. The tournament took place in ten venues located in eight cities: Aveiro, Braga, Coimbra, Guimarães, Faro/Loulé, Leiria, Porto and Lisbon.
The tournament was rich in surprises: Germany and Italy were knocked out during the group stage; title-holders France were eliminated in the quarter-finals by underdogs Greece, and the Portuguese hosts recovered from their opening defeat to reach the final, eliminating Spain, England and Netherlands along the way. For the first time, the final featured the same teams as the opening match, with the hosts losing both of them, for the first time as well, as Portugal were beaten byGreece on both occasions. Greece’s triumph was even more outstanding considering that they had only qualified for two other major tournaments – Euro 1980 and the 1994 FIFA World Cup – and their victory in the opening match was their first in a major tournament.
During the opening ceremony, one of the tableaux depicted a ship, symbolizing the voyages of the Portuguese explorers, sailing through a sea which gave way to the flags of all competing countries. The ship caught the imagination of the Greek media and public, and the Greek team was dubbed the “Pirate Ship” (πειρατικό) for the manner in which the unfancied team “stole” the title from under the noses of the established sides. Portuguese-Canadian pop singer Nelly Furtadoperformed her single and official theme song “Força”, which represented Portuguese folk music and culture.
Group A opened with a shock as Greece, ranked outsiders from start, defeated the hosts 2–1. Giorgos Karagounis put them ahead after only seven minutes and Angelos Basinas made it 2–0 from the penalty spot on 51 minutes. An injury time goal fromCristiano Ronaldo proved no more than a consolation. The Greeks then drew with Spain before losing to Russia in their last game. Greece and Spain finished with identical records but the Greeks were given second place on the basis of more goals scored. Portugal, meanwhile, recovered from their opening-game defeat and took first place in Group A.
France, the holders, and England ended their Group B encounter in furious fashion as the French scored twice in injury time to go from 1–0 down to 2–1 winners; Zinedine Zidane scored in the first minute of injury time and two minutes later, an error by the English defence gave a France penalty and Zidane fired in the winner. England’s other two games were memorable for the performances of their young star Wayne Rooney. Only 18 at the time, Rooney’s goal-scoring ability proved instrumental in victories over Switzerland (3–0) and Croatia (4–2). England and France qualified from the group.
Group C featured a bizarre three-way tie between Sweden, Denmark, and Italy for first spot. All matches between the three sides had ended in draws and all three had beaten Bulgaria. Italy were ultimately eliminated on the number of goals scored between the three sides after Sweden and Denmark drew 2–2. The Italians went so far as to accuse Sweden and Denmark of fixing their match as both sides knew that a 2–2 result would advance them both over Italy but UEFA disregarded such an idea.
The Czech Republic were only team to finish the groups stages perfectly; they defeated Latvia, the Netherlands, and Germany. It was another disappointing European campaign for Germany, which failed to advance from the group stage once again. The Netherlands claimed the runner-up place in Group D.
Quarter-finals and semi-finals
In the first quarter-final between England and Portugal, the English opened the scoring after only two minutes through Michael Owen. Portugal’s constant attacking pressure from then on resulted in Hélder Postiga’s 83rd minute equaliser. A controversial incident came in the dying minutes when Michael Owen hit the Portuguese crossbar, resulting in a Sol Campbell header, which appeared to have given England the lead again, but his header was ruled out for what the referee Urs Meier deemed a foul on the Portuguese goalkeeper Ricardo Pereira. The sides exchanged goals in extra-time, sending the match to penalty kicks and Portugal won 6–5; Portugal’s goalkeeper Ricardo saved a penalty from Darius Vassell and then scored the winning goal.
The Greeks, meanwhile, continued to stun everybody. Firm defensive play and an Angelos Charisteas goal on 65 minutes helped them defeat France 1–0 and send them through to the semi-finals. This victory made Greece the first team to defeat both the holders and the hosts in the same tournament. Sweden and the Netherlands played out an exciting encounter but neither side could find a breakthrough and the match ended goalless after extra-time. The Dutch progressed after winning the penalty shootout 5–4, their first ever victory on penalties. The last quarter-final saw the Czechs dispatch Denmark as a two-goal effort from Milan Baroš helped seal a 3–0 win.
Portugal and the Netherlands faced each other in the first semi-final. Ronaldo put the hosts into the lead from a corner kick midway through the first half and just before the hour mark a spectacular goal from Maniche made it 2–0 for Portugal. An own goal from Jorge Andrade gave the Netherlands a glimmer of hope. Portugal came close to scoring a third goal that was only stopped by Wilfred Bouma’s blocking attempt. The game ended 2–1 to Portugal and the hosts, after their opening day failure, were through to the final of their European Championship. The Czech Republic looked likely candidates to face the hosts in the final but they would have to see off the upstart Greeks to do so. The Czechs had several chances, including a shot from Tomáš Rosický that struck the bar. The game remained goalless until the dying moments of the first half of extra-time when Traianos Dellas headed home the winner, the first and only silver goal in a European Championship.
The final was a repeat of the opening game of the tournament and Portugal were hoping to avenge their opening day loss. Portugal furiously attacked and dominated the possession but once again, sturdy defending and goalkeeping from Greece kept the Portuguese hosts off the scoreboard. Just before the hour mark, Greece earned a corner kick from which Angelos Charisteas scored. Portugal continued to press after the goal but even with five minutes of injury-time added, they could not find an equaliser. Greece won the match 1–0 and were crowned as European champions, a title that they were given a 150–1 chance of winning before the tournament.