Otto Rehhagel is already assured of immortality back in Greece before the 2004 European Championships have been completed and a seat on Mount Olympus is reserved. Qualification for the tournament was viewed as a minor miracle. Beating Portugal in the opening match was akin to the Oracle of Delphi. The Greeks, never having won a competitive match, suddenly progressed at the expense of former champions Spain and Russia and faced mighty France for a place in the semi-finals. For many, including the French themselves, the result was a foregone conclusion, but they forgot one vital factor – the coach. If you quote the famous saying: “Never change a winning team” at Otto Rehhagel, he merely laughs. His teams change their tactics according to every different opponent, a strategy that has served him well in the past.
Back in Germany, Rehhagel spent over a decade at Bremen, taking the unglamorous team on a tight budget to several championships. Overlooked for the national job and fired after only one season at Bayern Munich for his outspoken opinions, he took over traditional club Kaiserslautern, then in the Second Division, gained promotion and won the championship in their first season back in the top flight.
Last week, he caused the greatest upset in European Championship history by inspiring his Greece side to beat France 1-0. Instead of the widely expected defensive wall, the Greeks attacked the title favourites’ one weakness – their defence. After peppering Barthez’s goal throughout the first half, Angelos Charisteas applied the killer blow with a fine header in the second. France were never in the game and Rehhagel’s Trojan Horse triumphant.