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Greece hopes to repeat 2004
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Greece emerged from obscurity in Euro 2004 with a surprise win over host Portugal for its first championship in just its third major tournament.

Since that triumph, which started and ended with wins over Portugal, the Greek side has qualified for Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and now Euro 2012 to earn more attention throughout Europe.

But Greece firmly leans on its Euro 2004 title, as it failed to advance out of the group stage of either World Cup it played in or its other two Euro finals.

Eight years after its marquee win, Portuguese coach Fernando Santos will guide Greece as it searches a second surprise title in Poland and Ukraine.

"I am very happy with the preparation so far," Santos said.

Greece still has a link to its Euro championship team in Kostas Katsouranis, a midfielder who started the final that year. He forms the core of midfield as a 32-year-old this year with captain Giorgos Karagounis.

Karagounis is the most experienced international with well over 100 caps and Katsouranis is the second-most experienced with over 90 appearances. Those two will be counted on, along with potential breakout player Kostas Fortounis.

The 19-year-old Fortounis has played just a few matches for Greece, but could be used to inject some youth and excitement into the lineup this summer and be among the key links to a solid attacking line.

Greece has forwards Nikos Lyberopoulos, Theofanis Gekas, Dimitris Salpigidis, and Giorgos Samaras who have all played at least 50 times internationally, and those players will need to produce goals in the tournament.

But where Greece hangs its hat is defensively as it allowed just five goals in an unbeaten qualifying campaign that featured seven wins and three draws. The Greeks allowed just five goals, but scored just 14.

Vasilis Torosidis, Avraam Papadopoulos and Sokratis Papastathopoulos form the core defensively, but the position lacks international experience and depth in front of goalkeeper Michalis Sifakis, the likely starter with just 11 caps.

Greece allowed four goals in the group stage eight years ago, but posted three successive 1-0 shutouts, over France, the Czech Republic and Portugal, in the knockout stage, and will need to reproduce that form from the start.

With the level of competition raised in the final, Greece will have a big task in Group A with the Czech Republic, co-host Poland and Russia. But based on an improved level of play since its triumph, it is not overmatched in the group.

OUTLOOK

Greece received a fortunate draw, but it is still hard to imagine it is primed to replicate its surprise 2004 performance. A berth in the knockout stage will be attainable, as the Czech Republic, Poland and Russia do not provide a giant task in group play. At that point, anything is possible, but it is more likely all possibilities will be over at the end of the group stage. Even through the country has developed in recent years, it should struggle this summer.

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