Greece's win in EURO 2004 is the kind of miracle that comes around only once every 30 years said coach Otto Rehhagel after their 1-0 defeat by Russia.

Greece followed Czechoslovakia in 1980, Denmark in 1996 and Germany in 2000 as defending champions who failed to make it out of the group stage, but the 69-year-old German said he had always expected it to be difficult.

"We all came here obviously to get the best possible result from the tournament," said the former Werder Bremen and Bayern Munich coach.

"But we were in a group with Spain (who they play on Wednesday and who will finish top of the group) and Sweden. We knew it would be difficult. But we did compete here.

"And we will not be the only ones with a big reputation to exit at the first stage. Neither France or Italy might make the quarter-finals. A miracle happened in 2004 and a miracle only comes around every 30 years. That is why we call them miracles."

Rehhagel, who was hailed a hero four years ago when Greece beat then holders France in the quarter-finals and hosts Portugal in the final earning the nickname 'Rehhakles' as a play on words with mythical Greek hero Heracles, said there had been no alternative than to play in a negative fashion.

"It was a very competitive match and we played better than we did against Sweden (they lost 2-0). But unfortunately, and this is nothing new, we didn't score. It is for that reason we focussed on a tight defence and hitting them on the counterattack.

"We are not a team that scores three goals in every match. What I liked was the passion shown by my team, the fact that they played with such heart despite the strength of the Russian side."

Rehhagel said he had not been surprised by the flowing football produced by the Russians, who could well have scored a hatful had their shooting been on a par with their creativity.

"I have often taken on Russian sides," he continued. "I know that the Russians are rapid and that their footballers are amazing. Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen can testify to that," said Rehhagel, referring to the fact both the Bundesliga sides were knocked out by Russian outfit and eventual champions Zenit Saint-Petersburg in the UEFA Cup last season.