Euro 2004 qualifier
Spain 0 - Greece 1
Michel Salgado, Puyol, Iván Helguera, Raúl Bravo;
Etxeberría (Joaquín 60'), Marchena (Sergio 77'), Valerón,
Vicente (De Pedro 60'); Morientes, Raúl. 4-4-2.
Group 6 table:
Report from our international correspondents Borja Pantzov and Goran Arsic .
What have we done, what have we done! All the talk this week is that Spain have already qualified for Portugal, just a formality with two easy games against Greece and Northern Ireland and it's off on holidays with the Portugal road map to book the best hotels before the Germans get there. And what happens? We lose to Greece, that is what happens! Everybody puts it down to tiredness and injuries after a long season, but we have the best league in the World, don't we have eleven players who can win a game like this?
Alright, Diego Tristán, Tamudo and Xavi are injured, Baraja and Albelda suspended and Xabi Alonso has gone down with a virus, but we must have more players who can take their place? Iñaki Sáez has only picked three forwards, Morientes, Raúl and ...well...Guti, who is really a midfielder and who gets injured in training and is out anyway. Time to bring in Luque, Urzaiz, even Fernando Torres, but who does the manager call up? Gabri, who is a versatile player but who played at right back in his debut for Spain.
So is it any wonder we can't score? Sáez puts all his eggs in one basket (or should that be all his Basques in one exit?), putting on Raúl and Morientes with Valerón behind them. Nobody left in reserve then if we can't score. And we can't, even though we do most of the attacking and Greece lose Charisteas and Tsartas to injury before half time. And then disaster, almost in their first attack the Greeks score, Giannokopoulos picking up a pass on the edge of the area from Veneditis to beat Casillas.
Half time, and Goran comes in to join me. He was having such a good time in a bar before the game, what with Zaragoza getting to within a point of promotion earlier in the afternoon, and decided to stay celebrating. (There was talk of course that maybe it wasn't so good an idea to have the match here with all the home fans in Madrid, but actually the ground is almost full and most are in a good mood for that reason). Goran tells me he met a group of Greek fans who were smashing plates, an old tradition over there, and he joined in. Problem was they all did a runner leaving him, to coin a Spanish phrase, "paying the broken plates".
Who may end up paying the broken plates of this embarrassing display though is the manager. With all due respect, what is Raúl Bravo doing in the side? He has hardly played a game all season and is back in Madrid spending the day with his GameBoy now that his loan to Leeds is over. Sáez decides to make changes, Joaquín, De Pedro, but what we need now is a centre forward, and we don't have one. Greece are down to ten men, Veneditis is sent off for a second yellow card, but we wouldn't score even against five like this.
And so it is all over, and we have lost a home match in an official competition for the first time since France beat us in October 1991. Twelve years and 25 games, and we are now only one point above Greece and Ukrania in the table. Off we go now to Northern Ireland, who haven't scored a goal in ten games, so there should be no problem. Goran is looking forward to it and already asked me if I know what the English word is for Guinness. Actually I don't have a clue.