Perhaps it was just a matter of time.

 

Perhaps it was fate turning the tables on over-hyped, over-paid players and the superpower nations of football.

 

But in the end, Euro 2004, held in Portugal, will likely be remembered for how teamwork surpassed individual dexterity – the near symphonic passing and footwork of such teams as Greece, Sweden and the Czech Republic overwhelming the incompetence of 'stars' David Beckham, Michael Ballack and Zeineldin Zidane.

 

The age of the superhero footballer is finished.

 

Year of the underdog

 

Greece, ranked 35 in the world and which has never won a single game in international competition, was seen as easy fodder for the European juggernauts Germany, England, France, Italy, and Spain.

 

But then Greece beat hosts Portugal 2-1 (ranked 22) in the opening game of the tournament and went on to beat Spain (ranked 3) 1-0.

 

Suddenly, Greece's prospects in the tournament no longer looked like a fargone conclusion and the team was now considered the underdog, much in the same way Cameroon stunned the world by beating Argentina 1-0 in the World Cup in 1990.

 

Greece's bedazzling defeat of tournament favourites France (1-0) in the quarter-finals upstaged all expectations for Euro 2004.

 

France and England had been dispatched home. Germany, Italy and Spain never even made it beyond the first round.

 

Heroes

 

Although it was 24-year-old Angelos Haristeas' 57th minute header into the Portuguese net that won the game, the real hero of the day was none other than Greece's German coach Otto Rehhagel.

Portugal's coach Luiz Scolari (L)
congratulates Greece's Rehhagel

 

Known as the "crazy German" in the Greek press for his eccentric methods, Rehhagel never lost sight of his side's more aspiring players, particularly Haristeas.

 

"From the day he got here [on the team roster] I looked at him carefully and saw a guy who can play in several positions," Rehhagel said of his star player.

 

Ironically, Haristeas is a substitute for German champions Werder Bremen, a team Rehhagel led to two league titles and one European Cup Winners' Cup.

 

Road to Athens

 

As ecstatic fans flooded Greek cities and thousands of others clogged up downtown Sydney, Toronto, and Montreal, many are calling the victory a good tiding ahead of the Athens 2004 Olympics scheduled to begin on 13 August.

 

"It's the best passport for the Olympics," Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said in Lisbon, where he was attending the football final.