While all eyes are focusing on the Olympic Games in Athens in August, Greece's long, hot sporting summer will start in June when they face the hosts Portugal in the European Championship opener.
Surprise qualifiers Greece will be looking to get a very special year off to a good start and avoid handing out the kind of gifts they gave the opposition the last time they graced the international stage in 1994.
Then, their most memorable moment en route to a pointless, goalless tournament wooden spoon at the World Cup finals in the United States was to be on the receiving end of Diego Maradona's last World Cup goal.
They face an uphill task after being drawn in Group A with the hosts, Russia, and Spain, who will be itching for revenge for being sent into the play-offs after finishing second to Greece in qualifying.
But this time they come into the tournament with a series of impressive results that have been extended in recent friendlies including a 1-1 draw against Portugal in Aveiro last year.
The new success is down to a fearless blend of young and old heads, according to Greece's Stelios Giannakopoulos whose match-winning goal away to Spain cleared their path to the top of qualifying Group Six.
"We have experienced players who have played against the best in foreign leagues and can look them in the eye without fear now," he said.
"Even our younger players have played many times in the Champions League," added the midfielder, who moved to England's Bolton Wanderers last year.
It was this mix of foreign-based talent and youngsters with European exposure that powered Greece to six consecutive wins and pushed them past rivals Spain and Ukraine.
There was little sign of what was to come on a cold night in Kiev in October 2002 however when Ukraine beat the Greeks 2-0. Greece had already lost by the same scoreline at home to Spain and appeared to be embarking on another fruitless qualifying quest.
But a brace from striker Demis Nikolaidis got them off the mark with a 2-0 home win over Armenia in March last year.
Then in Belfast three days later, the youngsters had their turn as Werder Bremen's 23-year-old Angelos Haristeas put two goals past Northern Ireland in another 2-0 win.
After two clean sheets, the defence with the twin pillars of Leicester City's Nikos Dabizas who switched in mid-season from Newcastle, and Roma's Traianos Dellas were beginning to shine.
The pair, who rarely started for their clubs during qualifying, withstood tremendous pressure on a famous night for Greek football in Zaragoza's Romareda Stadium when Greece beat Spain 1-0 on June 7.
Giannakopoulos was the hero as he unleashed a searing first-half drive from 20 metres past Spain's Iker Casillas to seal the victory.
A late goal from Haristeas against Ukraine four days later in a 1-0 win in Athens put them on top of the group for the first time.
With two ties remaining against group minnows Armenia and Northern Ireland, the Greeks had only to hold their nerve to earn the automatic qualifying berth.
German coach Otto Rehhagel's team chiselled out two more 1-0 victories, away in Yerevan and then at home in Athens, to see them over the line.
In the process Panathinaikos goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis extended his marathon shut-out to 540 minutes without conceding, a national record.
With their place secured on the back of a six-match winning streak, Rehhagel was confident there would be no repeat of the Greek tragedy in America.
"We won't be going there just to take part, we'll be looking to do something," he promised.
There is no doubt that Greek soccer has improved since 1994. This season, as an indication, there were three Greek teams in the Champions League: Olympiakos, Panathinaikos and AEK Athens, but all went out in the group stage although Panathinaikos dropped into the UEFA Cup.
Things have improved for the Greeks, but Euro 2004 is likely to prove they still have some way to go.
hopes his Trojan horse will bring
|Veteran German coach Otto Rehhagel plans to use his well-tested "Trojan Horse" tactics
- tight defence and surprise counter attacks
- to give Greece the edge during the European Championship next month.
Greece used the same tactics to qualify top of their group for their second European Championship following their previous appearance in 1980, and were unbeaten in 15 consecutive games until a 4-0 defeat by the Netherlands last month.
Rehhagel will deploy the same plan against Portugal in the championship opener, and Spain and Russia, because he believes the solid defending and quick breaks can give Greece a rare taste of international success.
Since his team qualified, Rehhagel has become an honorary Greek, singing the country's national anthem on television.
So deploying the ancient Greek tactic of wheeling into battle a seemingly harmless wooden horse actually loaded with warriors is no surprise.
But the road to Portugal has been bumpy for the German.
When the Greek Football Association signed Rehhagel two years ago, most Greeks thought he was just after one last good pay cheque before retiring.
But two years on, Rehhagel, 65, is the toast of the country after steering Greece into the European finals for the first time in 24 years with a record-breaking, six-game winning streak.
His players have shown teamwork and discipline on the pitch and it was a well-worked plan of tight defending and quick breaks that gave the Greeks their biggest boost when they beat Spain away during the qualifiers.
"We will not go to Portugal as character actors," Rehhagel warned, in an effort to dispel Greek fears of yet another debacle at a major international championship after their 1994 World Cup fiasco when they failed to score a goal and were ranked as the worst of the 24 finalists.
"With only a few exceptions I will use the same players that got us to Portugal," the former Kaiserslautern defender and coach said.
The German, nicknamed "King Otto" in Greece, was already a hero during the late 1980s when his exciting Werder Bremen underdogs gave giants Bayern Munich a run for their money in the Bundesliga and won two championships, two cups, and a UEFA Cup.
But a disappointing spell at Bayern and a four-year stint at Kaiserslautern
- although he did win another title there
- seemed to spell the end of his coaching days in top-flight football.
Greece, it seemed, would be his last stop.
But Rehhagel, renowned for his stubborn nature, quickly instilled a much-needed sense of discipline among notoriously selfish Greek players.
"These footballers are highly skilled but they still have to work on discipline and teamwork on the pitch," Rehhagel said after losing the first two games of their qualifying round.
His team went on to win six games in a row, including rare away victories in Northern Ireland, Spain and Armenia.
Rehhagel has renegotiated an extension of his lucrative contract to run until the 2006 World Cup, after turning down offers from top German clubs including Bayer Leverkusen.
"The relationship with the FA was very good, so was the work with the players...and my wife wanted to stay here as well."