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Homesport"Sorry, I just did my job" :: Zerozero.pt

“Sorry, I just did my job” :: Zerozero.pt

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Born on July 4th. At least for the average Portuguese. A country in tears, perhaps even in despair, and Greece taking Europeans to the Acropolis. A special day and an unexpected hero.

Angelos Charisteas.

Exactly 20 years ago, on a disappointing afternoon in Luz, the Greek striker was the executor of Portugal's dream. The country is plunged into a typical and recurring sadness, until it can overcome the heartache – Paris, 2016, Eder's goal.

In the 57th minute of a terrible match, the Werder Bremen striker at the time took advantage of a cross from a corner from the right side played by Basinas, and hesitated between Costinha and goalkeeper Ricardo. Header, goal.

“It's the most amazing moment of my career, yes,” Charisteas agrees. Zero Zerofrom Germany, where he follows Euro24 and provides commentary for the Greek public broadcaster.

“Even if I wanted to forget it, they wouldn’t let me,” joked the former striker, now 44 and enjoying “football from the outside.”

Two decades later, Charisteas accepted our invitation for an interview. Friendly and intelligent, he picks up his book of memories and flips through them freely, as if he were reliving “the best summer of his life” all over again. A review free of rigidity and stereotypes.

If we are allowed this contradiction, Charisteas is our kind executioner. “I hope you are not angry with me anymore, because I really like visiting Portugal on vacation.”

For us it's a score-settling, dear Angelos.

Zero Zero – 20 years ago, Charisteas broke the hearts of millions of Portuguese. Did you feel like “Portugal’s executioner” in that European final?

Angelos Charisteas – I know it was very difficult for the Portuguese to lose that game. Playing in a final in your country and not winning… Of course it was difficult and I can imagine how they felt that day and the next day. But football always offers new opportunities. Twelve years after my goal, Portugal celebrated the European title against France and in France. Only football and sport are able to deal with these emotions and paradoxes.

zz – After this goal and that final, did you have the chance to return to Portugal?

air conditioner – Yes, I came back to play against Benfica in 2008 and I was on holiday too. Nobody treated me badly (laughs). And in Greece it's the same. When we talk about Cristiano Ronaldo, we never talk about him in a negative way.

sDoes anyone think Greece played these six games and became European champions by chance? Impossible. We must have the quality, the players, the mentality, the coach. Everything must be right.

Angelos Charisteas

zz – But he did not score any goal against Greece in the European final.

air conditioner – That's right (laughs). I want to believe that if we are right and honest and win cleanly, like Greece won in Euro 2004, then no one can accuse us of anything. I have always tried in my life to be consistent and to do things well. That afternoon, I did everything I could to make millions of Greeks happy. Winning the Euro in Portugal and in the final against Portugal… I felt happy.

Twenty years later, I am here in Germany for work. I was at the Portugal-Turkey game and saw the great energy and how important it is to be part of this tournament. I was very sad that Greece is not here. Portugal is already in the top eight. Maybe I can even reach the final. I decided Euro 2004 with one goal, which I will never forget, but here I am and I don't have my national team competing. It's sad.

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zz – In Euro 2004 you scored goals against France, Spain and Portugal. It was a great tournament for you.

air conditioner – I have the details of each of those goals in my head. Every day of my life, more than 50 people send me messages about Euro 2004. It is impossible to free myself from these thoughts. The first goal against Spain was difficult. I received a very long pass, I had to control the ball well and Puyol was right above me. I had to shoot as quickly as possible and I scored past Iker Casillas.

The second goal against France was fantastic. It started with a great move by Zagorakis on the right. He ran and sent a cross and I headed it past Fabien Barthez. And the last one, Portugal, gave us the cup. These three goals have stayed with me throughout my career. How many players have had a great career and never had the chance to play and score for their country? I was very lucky. I scored great goals against great teams.

zz – During the goal against Portugal, did you smell “blood” in the area?

air conditioner – I felt like I could cause some damage, yeah. It was my job. Costinha was marking me. I think Ricardo wasn't sure whether to go or stay in goal and that also created doubts for Costinha. There was insecurity there. I moved towards the ball, the corner was very tense and strong and the header came out well. In these types of games there aren't many chances. I took advantage of that moment of doubt well.

zz – The final was very tactically closed. Greece were relaxed and allowed very little. Do you agree?

air conditioner – First, I have to remember one thing: our national team was full of good players who played for big clubs in the best European leagues. We had enough experience to know that the pressure was all on the Portuguese side. With Figo, Rui Costa, Pauleta, Ricardo Carvalho, nobody expected Portugal to lose. We knew that and we played accordingly.

If Portugal hadn't scored in the first half, the atmosphere would have been in our favour. We defended well, but our team was not a defensive team. We defended well, yes, but with the ball we had quality. We drew against Spain and beat France. Don't forget that. Portugal played under a lot of pressure and we were already champions in our country. That allowed us to play the final with some calm.

zz – Greece had already defeated Portugal in the opening match of the European Championship.

air conditioner – Nobody becomes European champion by luck. It's simply not possible. There might be another lucky chance, but in six games? I've just watched Portugal and Slovenia and how difficult it is to score goals. Does anyone think Greece played those six games and became European champions by chance? Impossible. We have to have the quality, the players, the mentality, the coach. Everything has to be right. 100 percent.

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zz – After the final whistle, what was the atmosphere you found in the Portuguese team?

air conditioner – I don't want to lie. It was a very intense game, we were still on the grass of Luz for a good half an hour, and there were a lot of Greeks in the stadium, I don't know if they remember it. What do I remember?… I remember seeing the little Ronaldo crying, that's all. And receiving a hug from Figo. We tried to respect the pain of the Portuguese as much as possible. Even in the dressing room, I don't think we exaggerated. From their side you couldn't hear a fly.

@Getty/Alex Livesey

“I received an invitation in 2006 to play for Benfica.”

zz – Was the goal against Portugal the most important in your career?

air conditioner – Yes, yes, exactly. He gave us the European Championship and went straight into the history of Greek football. People remember the finals, the goals, the winners. I just arrived in Germany and saw it on a giant screen. Fan StationAll my goals in Euro 2004.

zz – At that time I was playing for Werder Bremen. They were the champions, but he continued to play there. You didn’t receive any millionaire offers?

air conditioner – I was very happy in Bremen. We won the championship and the cup and had a great team. I went to the European Championship full of confidence and was ready to play an important role honestly. I didn't change clubs because at Werder Bremen I had everything I needed. I was happy and had a good contract, why change?

Angelos Charisteas
7 official titles

zz – He has played in two European Championships, one World Cup, played in the Champions League and was decisive in winning his country's only major title. He is actually the second highest scorer for Greece. Do you consider yourself a Greek god?

air conditioner – I understand the provocation, but no (laughs). What I know, and I can promise publicly, is that no one has ever coached better than me. I am now 44 years old, and I can look back and speak calmly. I started in a small club in Greece [Aris]Then I spent a large part of my career in Germany. [Werder Bremen, Nurnberg, Bayer Leverkusen e Schalke 04] In the Netherlands [Ajax e Feyenoord]I have played in the best competitions in the world.

I achieved everything I wanted. I saw players more talented than me who didn't achieve half of what I did. It's quite cliché, way too much. The difference is that I had the perfect personality to be in a high competition. I was never the best footballer in my team, but I loved training. Who trained better? Me every day. He was a workaholic. First in and last out.

zz – Did you not receive any invitation to play in Portugal?

air conditioner – Yes, I did. I received an offer from Benfica in 2006.

zz – Did you reject it?

air conditioner – We talked a lot, but I chose not to. I had been playing for Ajax for a year and a half. I thought it would be strange to change countries again. I moved from Greece to Germany, from Germany to Holland and I refused to move again. Going to a new country is not just a sporting matter. It is a new life, new habits, different people, a different mentality. I chose to stay in Holland and signed for Feyenoord. I felt I had to stay there.

“Pavlidis is complete and loves to participate in the game.”

zz – What’s going on with the Greek national team? They’ve been out of the final stages of major competitions for ten years.

air conditioner – Well… (Pause) Between 2002 and 2014 we had the best generation in Greek football. We played three European Championships and two World Cups at that point. After 2014 we felt that the team had fallen. For many reasons and it is not easy to explain everything. Yesterday I was watching the France-Belgium match and I was thinking how difficult it is for a small footballing nation to stay at the top for so long.

We have to be more organised and more rigorous. What Portugal has achieved in the last 25 years is fantastic. To be in all the big tournaments, to always have great players and fight for titles? A small country like Portugal? Great, great. They are doing something right in Portugal (laughs). We still have good players, one of them has now gone to Benfica, but something is missing.

zz – Do you know Pavlidis well?

air conditioner – Yes, of course. He is a complete striker, very strong and loves to participate in the game. He is not just a goalscorer. He was once undisputed in the national team, but recently Ioannidis has been [Panathinaikos, desejado pelo Sporting] It was even the first choice.

zz – Do you have any favourites to win Euro24?

air conditioner – I have watched almost all the games, and of course I have. I played nine seasons in Germany, I know the mentality of this country very well and it is always a candidate to win the final. Even if it has not had a choice with the level of others in the past. In a month anything can happen. I think the European champion will go out in the quarter-finals between Germany and Spain. One of them will be the winner. From what I have seen, I think so. These are two teams in very good form.

zz – What do you think of Portugal?

air conditioner – I watched the match against Turkey carefully. A team with Bernardo Silva, Rafael Leao, Nuno Mendes, Joao Cancelo, Vitinha, Bruno Fernandes, in short, should always be a contender for the title. This is the backbone of the team, along with goalkeeper Diogo Costa. Then there is Cristiano Ronaldo, a legend of the game. He is the star, he has experience, and he can still do good things.

And I forget Pepe. Portugal have everything they need to be European champions, but I'd put them behind Germany and Spain at this point. Oh, and Portugal have a great coach.

zz – Do you know Roberto Martinez well?

air conditioner – I know him personally, he has great ideas, he respects the players a lot. He is a gentleman, a great guy. I wish him luck with Portugal. I really enjoyed speaking on behalf of your country and please forgive me for my goal from 20 years ago. I was just doing my job.

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