The famous triumph of Euro 2004 seemed a distant fantasy as the Greek class of 2012 served up a tragedy of a performance against a resurgent Czech Republic in Wroclaw.
With just a single point from their opening two games, Greece need no-one to tell them they are on the brink of elimination and they will require nothing less than a victory against Russia in Warsaw next Saturday to keep their fading hopes of progress from Group A alive. Judging by the hangdog look on the face of coach Fernando Santos after his side's 2-1 loss, he knows the game might well be up for them.
In recent years, the Greeks have earned themselves an enviable reputation for battling against the odds, for scrapping, spoiling, staying disciplined and making the most of whatever opportunities come their way. But they looked anything but solid at the back as they conceded two early goals and failed to recover. Fairytales can never be guaranteed and it will take an improbable improvement in form and fortune if the Hellenic David is to slay the Russian Goliath.
"Obviously we're not in a good place at the moment," said Greek striker Dimitris Salpigidis, the scorer of their equalizer in the 1-1 draw with Poland in the tournament opener. "We planned to have more points on the board but, one way or another, it's not happened for us. As professionals we are very critical of ourselves. We know we could have done better, particularly in the first halves against Poland and the Czechs. In an ideal world, we don't want to be chasing games all the time.
"The positives we can take out of our first two games essentially are linked to our fighting spirit. We clawed our way back after the restart against both Poland and Czech Republic. In the Poland game, it worked out. Against the Czechs, the mountain we had to climb was too tall. Conceding those two early goals were killers.
"So long as there's one game left, we have a chance. Russia let you play and they are not superhuman. We have to believe. Greece is a team with a strong soul. In the past we've got the better of teams with more potential than us, and we can do it again. "
Talk to any Greek football lover and the issue of bad luck and injustice inevitably comes up. During their 180 minutes of action in Poland, the Greeks have been assailed by rotten fortune and there was a real sense of ‘the gods are against us' on a night when they were unfortunate to lose first choice keeper Kostas Chalkias after just 23 minutes.
"We seem to be cursed at this tournament," sighed the former national team keeper Antonis Nikopolidis. "We lost our two first-choice centre-backs [Avraam Papadopoulos has gone home with a cruciate ligament injury, while Sokratis Papastathopoulos was unjustly red-carded versus Poland], our number one keeper had to leave the field against the Czechs and in that game we had a perfectly good goal [a header from Giorgos Fotakis] ruled out for offside.
"Things are not going for us at all, and mentally that's a very hard situation to deal with. It has to have an effect. Players become a little bitter, become a little dispirited. Going two goals down early on against the Czechs was the worst thing that could have happened.
"It took us some time to recover, but we did fight our way back and that's what we have to remember. You can point to missed penalties [skipper Giorgos Karagounis failing from the spot against Poland], injury setbacks and unfavourable refereeing decisions. However, we can't change those setbacks. The boys have to look forward and use these bitter disappointments as a motivating tool.
"We have to stay unified and strong. That was the mark of the Euro 2004 Greece side under coach Otto Rehhagel when we defied the odds to win, and is the same with Fernando Santos in the driving seat. In one game anything can happen. I say don't write us off quite yet."
Greece have twice met Russia in the European Championship finals, losing on both occasions in 2004 and 2008, but according to Greek federation technical director Takis Fyssas, history will have no bearing on Saturday's do-or-die encounter.
"Make no mistake, Russia will be a real handful," says Fyssas. "They are excellent in an attacking sense, but we will not be fearful. We were made to be underdogs and our players prosper as such. We're due a rebellion. We've had our defence decimated and feel we have not had the rub of the green with on-pitch decisions. We have to think the wheel will turn and, as a huge game with massive consequences awaits us, we have to be ready."
Despite the howler by Chelsea's Champions League hero and Czech No.1 Petr Cech that gave Greece hope of another comeback to add to their late rally against Poland, the speed of passing and attacking efficiency shown by Michal Bilek's men as they snatched two early goals suggests they should threaten the Poles in their final, high stakes group game.
"It was a pressure night for us and the players handled it so well," said a clearly relieved Bilek as he faced the media. "We passed the ball so well in the first half and did well when we lost Tomas Rosicky, with what may be a bad Achilles tendon injury. That is a big blow for us and Tomas, but at least we have given ourselves a chance going into this final game."
While Czech hopes were revived, this was a night when the lack of potency in the Greece side was exposed once again. Judging by the body language of the Greek players as they trudged their way through the media throng after this game, they did not look ready to mount a dramatic late rally and usurp Russia to keep their Euro 2012 dream alive.
All of us proved to be mistaken in writing off Greece as no-hopers at Euro 2004, but only the most passionate of supporters would dare to believe those heroics can be repeated eight years on.