Otto Rehhagel on Euro 2004: "We were despised, they only took us seriously when we had already won"

Otto Rehhagel

The now 85-year-old Otto Rehhagel spoke to the Hungarian press about the great moments of his career, and of course, he referred to the historic achievement of the Greek national team at Euro 2004.

The German coach initially referred to the selection of players for the Euro 2004 tournament in Portugal, stating, "I invited footballers who at the time probably didn't even know how good they were. However, they were very good players; otherwise, they would not have been able to achieve the results they achieved later."

"We won the European competition primarily because the team was made up of very good footballers. Theodoros Zagorakis, for example, was chosen as the best player of the whole tournament for a reason," Rehhagel added.

He then commented on the chilling coincidence: the 4th of July 1954, the day of the World Cup victory of the completely underdog West Germany, just like 50 years later, the victory of another underdog in the European Championship of Greece, on the 4th of July 2004.

"Yes, what we knew about the anniversary," he tells Nemzeti Sport now, another twenty years later. "The press dealt with it, but there, in the Greek team, no one was interested except me. The young players lived in the present, which is natural."

"The Portuguese criticised our defensive tactics, but why didn't they find a way to deal with it in the second game between us?"

Asked about the secret of the "Blue and White" march: "The truth is that they did not take us seriously, they despised us. When we won back-to-back matches, our opponents thought it was fine, saying 'it worked for them, but they don't win very often anyway. It is not worth studying their game, preparing thoroughly for them'."

"And I told my players: 'By the time they recognise our style of play, the tournament will be over.' And that's how it happened. By the time they learned to take us seriously, we had already won the European Championship," the German said.

"However, the Portuguese could see exactly what we were playing, as we faced each other not only in the final but also in the opening game, they criticised our defensive tactics, but why didn't they find a way to address that for the second game? They had about twenty days to do it," he added.

While commenting on the German national team that will give their "battle" at the upcoming Euro, Rehhagel noted: "I believe we will beat the Hungarians, but we must not underestimate them for a moment. They are in a similar situation as we were in 2004: now the Hungarians can be the Greeks, they have nothing to lose, so they can pull off the surprise."

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