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Sports

Defending Champions Greece Knocked Out

Defending champions Greece are out of Euro 2008 after losing 1-0 to Russia in Saturday's Group D match. The only goal of the game came in the 33rd minute after a terrible mix-up in the Greek defence.

Russia's Konstantin Zyrianov, center, celebrates scoring the opening goal during the group D match

Russia's Konstantin Zyrianov got lucky

Goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis chased after an innocuous ball, but was beaten to it by Sergey Semak, whose overhead cross was tapped in from close range by the unmarked Zenit St Petersburg midfielder Konstantin Zyryanov.

The result leaves Greece bottom of the group without a point from their two games. Russia and Sweden, who earlier in the day lost 2-1 to Spain, have three points each and meet in their final game. This means Greece cannot finish second behind Group D winners Spain, and their match on Wednesday is only of statistical interest.

Russia created a host of chances and were virtually unrecognizable from the side that was hammered 4-1 by Spain in their opening match.

"My biggest worry was not the football we play as everyone could see in some parts of the Spain game that this team could play good football with a lot of movement," said Russia coach Guus Hiddink.

"The result from tonight is a consequence of good football but is based on everyone doing his defensive job very well."

Greece shrugs off criticism

Otto Rehhagel

Greece's German coach Otto Rehhagel didn't expect another EURO 2004

After the game Greek coach Otto Rehhagel dismissed criticism that he played too defensively. "We always played what was right for us. Sweden also played defensively against Spain. We can play anything we want to, we play to win,." He said.

"I am not that disappointed as I knew beforehand what we can do. I always said that everything had to be right to beat Russia. The goal was practically an own goal, but the Russians are excellent sprinters and players."

He said he would not make any decisions on his future at this stage. "An hour after the game every person is beyond reason. So now we will play our last game, then I will go on holiday and then I will look at things."

Unlike their match against Sweden where they used five at the back, Greek played a four-man backline.

Missed chances on both sides

Russia's Konstantin Zyrianov is challenged by Greece's Vassilis Torosidis,

Greece did what they could but it wasn't enough

Russia, however, dominated the early play and could have gone ahead in the 15th minute when Roman Pavlyuchenko attempted to beat Nikopolidis with a lob, but the keeper did well to palm it over the bar.

Shortly afterwards it was Euro 2004 hero Angelos Charisteas who nearly gave the defending champions the lead when Vasilis Torosidis crossed into the area and Charisteas just failed to connect. The ball crashed against Igor Semshov and rolled just past the upright.

Just at a time when Greece were getting into the game, the Russians scored out of nowhere when Diniyar Bilyaletdinov's speculative cross into the Greek area led to Nikopolidis's moment of madness.

In the second half Greece pushed forward looking for their first goal of the tournament. This allowed the Russians plenty of space for counter attacks.

Pavlyuchenko had three chances in the second half, but twice pulled wide and once saw Nikopolidis push the ball away for a corner.

Cheering fans

Greek fans weren't cheering later

Midway through the second half, Greece had a good chance for the equalizer after Charisteas and Ionnis Amanatides combined well in the area before pushing the ball back to Angelos Basinas, but his shot flew over the bar.

The Greeks finally had the ball in the back of the net four minutes from the end, but Theofanis Gekas was ruled offside. Although Greece pushed men forward in the final minutes in search of the equalizer that would have kept them in the competition, they could not break through the Russian defence.

Group D-Day on Wednesday

Sweden and Russia face each other in their final group game on Wednesday, with Russia needing a win to finish second in the group, while Sweden will go through with a draw.

Russian forward Ivan Saenko said the game against Sweden would be very tough. "However, with the attitude that we showed today, we should be able to beat Sweden to go through."

After going through the motions against Greece on Wednesday, Spain, will face either France, Italy or Romania in the quarter finals, while Sweden or Russia will take on tournament favourites Netherlands.

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