Lightning doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t strike twice and that was proved on Saturday night when European champions Greece were bundled out of Euro 2008 in the group stage as the wait goes on for a side to successfully defend the title.
Otto RehhagelÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s men stormed to victory in Portugal in 2004 and had the football betting industry scratching their heads, but this time around they put in two limp performances in Salzburg and have yet to score at the finals.
Spain brushed the Greeks aside 2-0 in the first game, when RehhagelÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s men rarely ventured into Spanish territory, while SaturdayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 1-0 reverse by Russia was also well short of the desired mark and dumped them out of the tournament.
For all his guile of four years ago Rehhagel simply did not have a plan B and with the rest of Europe well aware of the GreeksÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ potential their threat was nullified.
The Greeks caught Europe by surprise four years ago with their energetic and resilient displays. They got the ball forward without fuss and forced their opponents onto the backfoot by bombarding them with dangerous crosses and more often than not came out on top 1-0. But this tournament Greece didn’t look interested in getting the ball forward, especially against Sweden, and were quite happy to stroke it across the halfway line and when they went behind they simply had no response.
Rehhagel’s charges did try to put Russia under pressure in game two, but the technically-gifted Russians were too clever and their passing and movement was far superior.
When Greece did get the ball forward, far too often it was more in hope than anything else and individual mistakes then proved costly as Greek soccer bets went up in smoke.
Two of the mainstays of the Euro 2004 campaign goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis and frontman Angelos Charisteas were off colour and ultimately it was NikopolidisÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ dreadful mistake against Russia which catapulted them out of the competition.
Charisteas was also also guilty of a missing a couple of gilt-edged chances that four years ago he would have gobbled up.
The Greeks do have another game against Spain on Wednesday to recoup some pride, but they’re all set for inconspicuous arrival at Athens airport when they return home unlike the hoards that met them in 2004.
By Phil Tomlinson
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