Goodbye, Greece

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:05 AM ET

SALZBURG, Austria -- Greece's reign as European champions is over.

With chants of "Hellas, Hellas" from its fans urging it forward, there would be no stunning header to turn the game, no magical moment that would allow Greece to have a chance to reach the quarter-finals.

Russia will get the chance to advance to the knockout round after defeating Greece 1-0 last night on a first-half goal by Konstantin Zyryanov.

Greece will finish Group D on Wednesday with a game against Spain, then leave Euro 2008.

"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."

Greece didn't go quietly. From the second Zyryanov put the ball in the back of the net, Greece went full out in an effort to tie it.

Greece coach Otto Rehhagel took out defender Giourkas Seitardisi and replaced him with attacking midfielder Giorgos Karagounis.

The game opened up considerably and as both teams ran hard and didn't hesitate when going into tackles.

As the Greeks pushed forward, the Russians counterattacked. It wasn't pretty but desperation often isn't. It led to good chances for both sides.

Greece wanted to show it belonged among the big boys after having to listen to most of the world talk about its win in 2004 as an aberration.

It didn't work out that way.

This team made too many mistakes on defence, gave the ball away cheaply at midfield and just couldn't seem to find a way to finish when it managed to create some chances.

"Unfortunately -- and this is not new -- we don't score goals," Rehhagel said. "We got to the tournament but wanted a better result. I knew we wouldn't waltz through this -- we're not that good. "

Russia is a good young team and what it has yet to learn as a team, it makes up for with athleticism.

The winning goal was an example of that athleticism, just as it was an example of the kind of mistakes Greece made in this tournament.

Russia lofted a ball across the front of Greece goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis, who left his net to grab it along the goal line.

Sergei Semak beat him, kicked the ball back over his head to Zyryanov who had nothing but an empty net to score.

Russia coach Guus Hiddink was pleased with his team. He pushed them to play tougher and better than they did in a 4-1 loss to Spain.

"I'm very proud of the team," he said. "(Tonight), it was a fighting team, a fighting machine. We talked in the dressing room a lot before this game, not so much about football.

"I was a little provocative hoping they would react when needed. I'm glad to see the Russian player can be a fighting player. My worry was not about football. We can play good football. I wanted a fighting spirit."

With less than five minutes left, there was an offside dispute. A long ball found Greece forward Fanis Gekas, who headed the ball forward. It eventually found Angelos Charisteas, who poked it into the net over Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev.

But Gekas was ruled offside by the linesman. Referee Roberto Rosetti had no option but to wave off the goal. Replays show that Charisteas appeared to be even with the final defender.


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