Like Denmark’s victory against Germany in the 1992 Final, Greece’s even-more-shocking triumph over hosts Portugal to win Euro 2004 came courtesy of a player not known for his goalscoring exploits. But whereas John Jensen was a defensive midfielder who wasn’t expected to contribute in the net-bulging stakes, the Greeks’ unlikely hero was, by definition, a striker. But that doesn’t tell the whole story about one Angelos Charisteas.
A journeyman centre-forward who had never reached doubles figures in league goals in seven years as a club professional, Charisteas nevertheless arrived at Euro 2004 in the winning habit, having played an admittedly-not-pivotal role in Werder Bremen’s Bundesliga and German Cup double.
He had also acquired a taste for victory with his country, scoring three goals - two of them winners - as Otto Rehhagel’s side recovered from losing their opening two games to top their Euro 2004 qualifying group ahead of Spain – admittedly, before they became really good.
By the time the 150/1 shots arrived at the final, nobody should have been surprised by anything, not even a winning goal by this most unremarkable of targetmen. Especially after he’d already found the net in Greece’s oft-forgotten opening group-game win against the hosts. Or after he’d had also scored a headed winner in the quarter-final against France. Or after Greece has progressed to the final via a near-identical header against the Czech Republic, this time from centre-back Traianos Dellas
And yet everybody was surprised, even the Greeks. “We couldn’t believe it,” admitted midfielder Anglos Basinas. At least he could remember it. To captain Theo Zagorakis, who was voted Player of the Tournament, it was a complete blur. “When the referee ended the match, it was as if the lights went out… another blank spot in my memory… the constant smile of an idiot on my face for I don’t know how many minutes.”
It was Basinas who set up the 57th-minute winner from a right-wing corner its recipient described as “great”. In truth, Charisteas was being generous. Under little pressure from the players behind them, Portugal’s two central defenders, Ricardo Carvalho and Jorge Andrade, and keeper Ricardo all allow the big striker to get in front of them at the near post. Look closely and he doesn’t even need to jump, in the end having to stoop to head into an unguarded net.
“That goal changed my life,” said Charisteas. “That game followed me throughout my career, and scoring in the final of a Euro [tournament] is something you simply cannot describe. Obviously I will never forget that moment, it was the most special moment of my career. What I am today, as a person and as a footballer, I owe it to that goal.”
Not that his club career changed markedly after he shot to international fame, winding up in the Saudi Arabian Premier League in 2013. He never did score ten league goals in a season.
His importance to Greece remained, though, with crucial goals in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2008, where he was the only Greek player to find the scoresheet, prompting brief rumours of a move to Ipswich Town. It never materialised.
Which leaves us with just one answered question. Who was that on the T-shirt Charisteas unveiled as he celebrated his career-defining goal 12 years ago? A young nephew apparently, who we presume, like the rest of Greece, is still very proud of uncle Angelos.
Charisteas stuns Portugal... in the most predictable of ways
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