This was either the most premature Olympic opening ceremony in history -- imagine that, the Greeks 40 days ahead of schedule -- or reason enough to call off the Athens Games today.
Oh, the Greeks can go ahead with their Olympics, with fingers crossed and security guards in formation, but how can they ever expect to top the events of July 4 in Lisbon, where Greece became perhaps the unlikeliest champion in the history of international soccer with a 1-0 victory over Portugal in the 2004 European Championship final?
This was Greece, a team that had never won a match at the World Cup or the European Championship, ranked 33rd in the world, completing a stunning run of victories over some of the sport's biggest names to claim the second-most prestigious trophy in soccer.
In the tournament opener, it was Greece 2, Portugal 1, a result most observers wrote off as a one-off, a helpful bucket of cold water splashed onto the faces of tournament hosts.
In the quarterfinals, it was Greece 1, France 0, a classic case of an energized underdog outrunning complacent, overconfident defending champions.
In the semifinals, it was Greece 1, Czech Republic 0, as the high-scoring Czechs, with 10 goals in their first four matches, fell victim to Pavel Nedved's 40th-minute leg injury and one defensive flinch on a 105th-minute corner kick.
And in Sunday's final in front of 62,865 in Luz Stadium, Greece trundled out the same old script, again on a corner kick, again against Portugal, which should have known better.
In the 57th minute, on his team's only corner of the match, Greece's Angelos Charisteas delivered his team's only shot on goal, heading it into the net while goalkeeper Ricardo and teammates Costinha and Ricardo Carvalho completed their Portuguese translation of the Czech instructional manual, "How Not to Defend Corner Kicks."
One chance. One mistake. That's all Greece needed in each of its last three games -- all of them decided by headers.
Portugal had an overwhelming advantage in possession (58% to 42%) and corners taken (10 to 1).
Portugal also out-shot Greece, 17 to 4.
Economics, however, was a lesson of the day. Of those 17 Portuguese shots, only five were on target. Greece was one for four.
And the way the Greeks drag games into the defensive grinder, one shot on target is often enough.
Luiz Felipe Scolari, the Brazilian coach in charge of Portugal's first trip to a major tournament final, apologized to the country after Portugal failed to take full home-field advantage.
"It is difficult to accept, but we have to accept it," Scolari told Portugal television RTP. "They play defensively. They won because they knew how to play well that way. I want to apologize in the name of the entire team for not being able to give the final joy in this Euro campaign to all the Portuguese who have supported us."
Purists wanting a similar apology from Greece Coach Otto Rehhagel, whose defensive tactics often made for grim viewing, will be disappointed once more. Other teams at Euro 2004, with bigger reputations and better talent, paid for their bunker-ball excursions with elimination. Greece clung to the philosophy like a life preserver, somehow managing to stay afloat.
But then, Greece had no other option than to defend, defend some more and pray for a break at the other end.
Worth noting: Ten years ago, in its first and only World Cup appearance, Greece was outscored, 10-0, in losses to Bulgaria, Nigeria and Argentina.
Also worth noting: Greece's front-five players Sunday were named Charisteas, Vryzas, Giannakopoulos, Zagorakis and Basinas. Not a Figo or a Totti or a Raul or a Ronaldo among them.
Rehhagel took what was available and crafted a hardworking team that never seemed to tire or make a defensive mistake. It was survival soccer. When Greece was seeded into a first-round group with Portugal, Spain and Russia, many tabbed Greece most likely to finish fourth. In the entire 16-team field, Greece came in a consensus 14th or 15th choice, depending on how one felt about Bulgaria and Latvia.
Even after the opening-day upset of Portugal, they said the Greeks couldn't last. Surely, once the heavyweights came knocking in the later rounds, Greece's defensive resolve would melt like a flaming plate of cheese. Opa!
Well, they don't come much heavier than France, winner of the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000. The Czech Republic was the offensive force of the tournament, armed with Nedved, the 2003 European player of the year, and Milan Baros, who led Euro 2004 scorers with five goals. And Portugal hadn't lost since the June 12 wake-up call against Greece -- with all the knowledge and incentive needed to reverse the score in the rematch.
The Greeks spent 285 minutes man-marking the French, the Czechs and the Portuguese in the quarterfinals, semifinals and final.
They did not yield a goal, making Greece the first team to win the European Championship or World Cup by shutting out its last three opponents.