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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 June, 2004, 08:26 GMT 09:26 UK
King Otto reigns in Greece

By Phil McNulty
Our man in Portugal

Greece coach Otto Rehhagel ignored the interruption of the "Mission Impossible" ringtone as he reflected on a result he claimed would reverberate from Rio to New York.

Otto Rehhagel

And that was because as far as the 65-year-old German coaching maverick was concerned, Greece's impossible mission had already been achieved minutes earlier with the 1-0 defeat of holders France in the Euro 2004 quarter-finals.

Rehhagel is known as "King Otto" in Greece because of his brilliant work in guiding them to Portugal - and as their fans poured out on the streets in Lisbon on Friday in wild celebration, they were ready to worship at his court once more.

Heaven knows what their reaction will be should the Greeks see off the Czech Republic in Thusday's semi-final in Porto.

Rehhagel is one of coaching's old school, enjoying a tough and hugely successful career in club football before taking charge of Greece in late 2001.

He won the European Cup Winners' Cup with Werder Bremen in 1992, as well as the Bundesliga in 1988 and 1993 and the German cup in 1991 and 1994.

He also claimed the Bundesliga with Kaiserslautern in 1998 and the German cup with Fortuna Dusseldorf in 1980.

Rehhagel had an ill-starred spell at Bayern Munich, but it was a case of the right man at the wrong time for a club that earned the name "FC Hollywood" for the attitude of its stars.

And he can now set what he has achieved with Greece alongside all of those honours as they reach the unknown territory of the European championship semi-final.

All around the world people will hear about our result, from Rio to New York to Los Angeles
Otto Rahhagel

Greece have already beaten Portugal and drawn with Spain, but the way they beat France was even more impressive, although Jacques Santini's side appeared to be in the iron grip of complacency until it was too late.

And the measure of Rehhagel's status in Greece came with the burst of spontaneous applause that broke out from the Greek media as their smiling coach entered his media conference.

Rehhagel was swiftly informed that the people of Greece had taken to the streets back home to celebrate - and he was unburdened by any modesty about the seismic impact of the result he had master-minded.

"It is a great sensation. This is very big news. All around the world people will hear about our result, from Rio to New York to Los Angeles. This is a great opportunity for Greek football.

"The strategy we had was proved completely successful on the field, although I will never discuss my tactics in press conferences. We will enjoy ourselves after this, but then the warm down begins and we focus on the semi-final."

Rehhagel added: "What I have done over the last three years is try to inspire a team spirit. They were already good players, but I had to tell them that it was the team that counts.

"I congratulate them all because they played with real passion and got the result we wanted."

To more applause from the Greece contingent, whose excitement was understandable, Rehhagel then made a smiling exit.

And it was highly unlikely that a rich irony was lost on a man who has rattled a few cages back in his homeland - and that is that Greece have easily eclipsed the efforts of Germany and his country is now looking for a new coach.

"King Otto" is now moving on to Greece's next "Mission Impossible."

Links to more Greece stories



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