Greece went 24 years from its first qualification before its next appearance in the final stages of the European Championship but, since its shock victory in Portugal in 2004, it has been ever-present in the finals. Otto Rehhagel, the coach who oversaw that triumph, finally left in 2010 to be replaced by the Portuguese manager Fernando Santos, named Greek coach of the last decade for his work with Panathinaikos, AEK and PAOK. But the method hasn't much changed.
The upset bug made its way around Europe over the weekend, with Mainz beating German power Bayern Munich and Getafe taming the all-mighty Barcelona, but for a few U.S. national team starters, their teams couldn't quite come up with the efforts necessary to stake claims to landmark Thanksgiving weekend victories against top competition.
PHILADELPHIA -- The first thing you notice is the shirt. Jurgen Klinsmann is wearing a blue-and-red Nike shirt with the badge of the U.S. national team as we sit down on Sunday for our first private interview since he took over as the U.S. coach. For some reason, seeing Klinsmann in the team gear for the first time rams home the point more than anything else so far. He's here. The World Cup-winning German really did take the job.
We really should know better by now. From the "Ta ra Fergie" banner of 1989, to Alan Hansen's insistence that "you'll win nothing with kids" in the mid-1990s, to the epilogues penned after three seasons trailing in Arsenal's and Chelsea's wake in the noughties, the lesson is clear: write off Sir Alex Ferguson at your peril. Perhaps too many hanker to be the first to forecast the decline of his incredible tenure. Perhaps there wasn't much wrong with calling this United side -- unbeaten until February but only intermittently convincing victors -- the "Crap Invincibles." Certainly, however, those pronouncements underestimated or ignored Ferguson's ken over the course of a long campaign.
Lyon forward Lisandro Lopez was Ligue 1's Player of the Year last season but he began this year looking a shadow of his former self. Lyon struggled in its worst start to a season for 15 years, earning just five points from its opening seven games, and Lisandro, sullen, sulky and only half-fit, seemed to embody the team's struggles.
In this year's Brazilian championship a fascinating chapter is being written in the long history of South America's major soccer rivalry. Brazilian kids are growing up with Argentine players as their idols -- and these are players who kids in Argentina may not even have heard of.
Cristiano Ronaldo got almost all the goals and absolutely all the headlines, the cover of Marca appearing to reveal its entire editorial line with "CR7, CR7, CR7 ... and more CR7," but when Real Madrid trashed Racing Santander 6-1 on Oct. 23, you could make a very good case for its best player being Ángel Di María. And one man making that case -- one man making that case very, very publicly indeed -- was Real manager Jose Mourinho.
Who is the greatest player of all time? Diego Maradona certainly has a claim. He hit extraordinary heights in the 1986 World Cup. Fellow Argentine Alfredo Di Stefano is another strong candidate -- one of the last products of his country's golden age in the 1940s. Di Stefano helped get professional soccer in Colombia off the ground before moving to Spain, where he spearheaded a Real Madrid team so exceptional that it ensured the success of the newly launched European Cup.
Thousands of fans, many weeping, packed a Hannover, Germany, stadium Sunday to pay their last respects to Robert Enke, captain of the Hannover 96 soccer club, who died last week in what police believe was a suicide.
If this summer's transfer window is any indication, we can look forward to one of the most exciting European seasons in decades. With the three most expensive transfers in the history of the game recently made for amounts previously unimaginable, the stakes are higher than ever.
Last week, when the resignation of AS Monaco president Jérôme de Bontin was announced, soccer fans in the U.S. pricked up their ears. Normally, the departure of a club president merits about as much attention here as a reserve match in the Bulgarian second division. But this was different. This front office shake-up has repercussions.
The U.S. national team's quest for a berth in the 2010 World Cup begins on Wednesday with a match against Guatemala, and I, for one, can't wait. Finally -- finally! -- we all get to see where this team really is, learn how far it's come since beating Mexico in last summer's Gold Cup final.
AS Monaco finalized the loan deal that brings American Freddy Adu from Benfica to the French league. Jerome de Bontin, Monaco's French-American president, said Thursday that the club has an option to buy Adu for 5 million euros ($8 million) at the end of the season, and he was on the lookout to sign another American before the end of the French transfer window in August.