Euro 2008: Greece's European reign ends

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Salzburg (Austria), June 15: After four years as European champion, Greece lost the title in just 180 minutes.

The defending champions were eliminated from the European Championship on Saturday after losing to Russia 1-0, their second straight defeat in Group D, and Greece now faces Spain in an indifferent game Wednesday with little to play for."We have nothing to blame but the way we played," Greece captain Angelos Basinas said. "We still have no points. ... We'll play an open game against the Spaniards and hopefully we'll get something." Responding to the opening defeat to Sweden, coach Otto Rehhagel played three strikers in an offensive lineup Saturday and the entire team pushed forward. But the Greeks rarely threatened Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeyev, and after a strong start the aging side lost pace midway through the first half.
The Russians scored in the 33rd minute with Konstantin Zyryanov punishing a goalkeeping error by Antonis Nikopolidis.

"They were very fast. It was very impressive how fast they played," Rehhagel said. "It was a very intense game, with both sides pushing hard. What I liked was the passion we showed against a good Russian team."

Greece reached the tournament with 10 wins from 12 games. But Russia was the only team that beat the Greeks four years ago, and repeated the trick this time around.

Rehhagel's defensive tactics backfired just as spectacularly as they worked against Portugal in the Euro 2004 final, with the Greeks having lost the element of surprise. Rehhagel also admitted his players lacked the quality to take on Europe's elite.

"Unfortunately — and this is not new — we don't score goals," he said. Greece is the only team that has yet to score a goal at Euro 2008.

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