Greece avoids opening day soccer disaster

Thessaloniki, Greece (Sports Network) - Host country Greece needed to rally back from a two-goal deficit to salvage a draw with South Korea and keep the home country from a disastrous opening day at the 2004 Olympic Games.

After the women's soccer team had already lost to the United Sates earlier Wednesday, the men appeared ready to follow suit with a disappointing effort against South Korea at Kaftanzoglio Stadium. The Euro 2004 champions, though, battled back with two goals in the final 23 minutes to finish in a 2-2 tie with South Korea on Wednesday night in a Group A match during opening day action at the Athens Games.

Greece, despite coming off the triumph earlier this summer in Portugal, put forth a squad with little resemblance to the team that captured the title. Still, the Greeks are expected to be a major factor in this competition, especially while playing in front of a frenzied home crowd.

South Korea was able to take control of the match when they broke down a stingy Greece defense just before the halftime whistle with a Dong Kim goal. Things then got worse for Greece early in the second half as defender Vyntra Loukas accidently put the ball in his own net.

But Greece began its comeback when substitute Ioannis Taralidis got the crowd into the match with a goal in the 77th minute, just moments after he stepped onto the field.

"It was like I was playing football for the first time in my life. I have never experienced an atmosphere like this before," Taralidis explained. "It was a once in a lifetime feeling."

A strike from Dimitrios Papadopoulos just eight minutes from time then allowed Greece to escape with a point, much to the delight of the home crowd.

"It was an exciting crowd that helped us turn the game and get one point, which may prove a treasure in our effort to advance," Greek midfielder Ieroklis Stoltidis said.

All four countries in Group A remained tied following the first round of action after Mexico and Mali also finished in a tie. Neither team was able to score a goal in that match.

Argentina, meanwhile, took care of business as expected with a rout of Serbia and Montenegro at Pampeloponnisiako Stadium. The talented Argentine squad showed no signs of a hangover after their loss to Brazil in the Copa America final several weeks back.

Cesar Delgado opened the floodgates with a goal just 11 minutes into the match. Just six minutes later, Cristian Gonzalez notched a goal of his own and the rout was on. When all was said and done Argentina had posted a 6-0 victory to take command of Group C.

"It was the best result for us," Argentina striker Javier Saviola said. "Of course we can not stand too long on this result and we have to be better in the next games."

The other two Group C competitors, Australia and Tunisia, played to a 1-1 draw at Pankritio Stadium on Wednesday.

By The Source
Aug 12, 2004
© Copyright 2004-2005

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