DONETSK, Ukraine (AFP) - Greece reached the World Cup finals for the first time since 1994 on Wednesday with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Ukraine in the return leg of their European zone play-off.
Panathinaikos striker Dimitris Salpingidis netted the only goal of the match sending Greece, the 2004 European champions, into their second World Cup finals after a 16-year absence.
"I'm proud of my players. They put all of their heart and soul into today's match," said Greece manager Otto Rehhagel.
"It was really tough to contain Ukraine's attacks throughout the match but we did our best and luckily we managed to do it and achieve the desired result."
Greece and Ukraine, who were deadlocked at 0-0 after the first leg in Athens on Saturday, struggled to impose themselves early on in a match played on a rain-soaked pitch of the half-empty, 50,000-seater Donbass Arena.
Ukraine skipper Andrei Shevchenko missed a chance to put his team into the lead in the eighth minute, when he failed to send home a rebound after Greece 'keeper Alexandros Tzorvas deflected Alexander Aliev's shot.
Greece replied with a seven-metre header by Celtic forward Giorgos Samaras, which went just inches above the crossbar from a well-struck Giorgos Karagounis freekick.
Just after the half-hour mark Salpingidis gave Greece the lead, beating Ukraine's defenders on a breakaway and receiving a razor-sharp pass from Samaras to score past goalkeeper Andrei Pyatov.
After the break, the hosts continued to press under the watchful gaze of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko.
But Greece defended well, stifling the hosts' attacks into fruitless long-range shots and replying on the couters.
Oleg Gusev missed Ukraine's last chance to level in injury time, but his six-yard shot went wide after Tsorvas deflected Yevgeny Seleznov's drive from the edge of the box.
"I don't have any criticism of my players. They gave all they had today but unfortunately it was not enough," said Ukraine coach Alexei Mikhailichenko.
"We had several scoring chances but there were too many mistakes and it was the main reason of the defeat."
|Coach: O. Mykhaylychenko|
for O. Aliyev 56'
for T. Mykhalyk 65'
for A. Yarmolenko 69'
|Southampton need three January signings, says Watson|
|Liverpool can make Champions League, says fanzine editor|
|Walsh: Hull clash crucial for Leicester|
|Toure, Aubameyang and Enyeama make shortlist for African gong|
|Docherty backs Chelsea to win two-horse race|
|Liverpool could benefit from Hyypia influence - Scales|
|Saudi Arabia name Asian Cup squad|
|Forty-year-old Cahill no problem for Postecoglou|
|Wenger criticism baffles Redknapp|
|Leicester must strengthen in window - Walsh|
|United not title contenders - Docherty|
|Koeman: Southampton youngsters will get a chance|
|Dyche empathises with Liverpool striker crisis|
|Cagliari turn to Zola|
|Rooney thanks Van Gaal for Christmas break|
|Cruzeiro offer Paulinho Tottenham exit chance|
|Carlisle´s wife grateful to Burnley|
|Katebe called up to Zambia AFCON squad|
|Cape Verde name AFCON squad|
|Finke names much-changed Cameroon squad|
|Grant omits World Cup troublemakers for AFCON|
|Blackpool striker Ranger goes AWOL|
|Allardyce relishing Mourinho meeting|
|Ashley fails to increase Rangers stake|
|Crystal Palace v Southampton: Koeman calls for focus|
|Warnock targeting striker in January|
|Chelsea v West Ham: Adrian vows visitors will attack|
|Heskey signs short-term deal at Bolton|
|Everton v Stoke City: Martinez eyes strong form|
|Juninho defends David Luiz|
|Burnley v Liverpool: Dyche defends Rodgers ahead of Turf Moor test|
|Arsenal v QPR: Wenger eyes festive momentum|
|Liverpool are growing in confidence, says Rodgers|
|Redknapp: Austin future could depend on survival|
|Martinez wants Everton consistency|
|Barca want Neymar until 2020, says agent|
|Jones undeterred by pressure of Liverpool starting role|
|Allardyce ´knows how to beat managers´ - Carroll|
|Jones playing for a new contract|
|China select Evergrande spine for Asian Cup|
|A-League Preview: Koren tips City to build|
|Khedira keen to fight for Real spot|
|Southampton confirm Elia deal|
|Cellino to remain as Leeds owner until after appeal|
|Manchester United v Newcastle United: Van Gaal demands domination|
|Van Gaal refuses to dismiss Bale speculation|
|Sunderland v Hull City: Bruce sure of Hull revival|
|Swansea City v Aston Villa: Lambert optimistic of away success|
|Agbonlahor red rescinded|
|Falcao depends on team-mates to perform - Van Gaal|
|Monk dismisses talk of Gomis move|
|West Brom v Manchester City: Pellegrini to experiment again|
|Xavi: I was ready for New York switch|
|Ibrahimovic fumes at awards snub|
|Irvine: No approaches for Berahino|
|Pearson determined to revive Leicester fortunes|
|League Two Preview: First host third as Wycombe meet Luton|
|League One Preview: Buoyant MK Dons eye more glory, Bristol City seek response|
|Championship Preview: Pritchard plotting to end Ipswich run, Bournemouth host Fulham|
|Kaboul place not guaranteed by captaincy - Pochettino|
|Koeman hopeful of Elia deal|
|Atletico president not ruling out Torres return|
|Swansea secure Oliveira signing|
|No excuses for Pellegrini|
|Walcott pace unaffected by injury|
|Former Real Madrid star Roberto Carlos backs Ronaldo for Ballon d´Or|
|Former PFA chairman Carlisle ´stable´ after serious incident|
|Balotelli remorse saved him from longer ban|
|Bayern midfielder Martinez ´on track´ with rehab|
|Pardew ´overjoyed´ at Gutierrez return|
|Spurs confirm Yedlin to join in January|
|Zeman sacked by Cagliari|
|Casillas: I´m going nowhere|
|Bruce demands McShane apology|
|Pulis would welcome Brighton talks|
|Buffon: Juve angry after Supercoppa loss|
|Arteta out until new year|
|Rangnick: Kampl deserves Dortmund switch|
|PFA offers support to Carlisle after serious incident|
|Napoli can mount title bid - Higuain|
|Cech´s agent urges Liverpool and Arsenal to make bid|
|Hart happy to be back to his best|
|Terry thrilled with ´revelation´ Matic|
|Perez rues ´unfair´ Tyne-Wear derby result|
|Khalfan Ibrahim returns from injury|
|Magath slams ´sensitive´ Fulham|
|´Limited´ attacking options inspire Postecoglou´s selections|
|Carlisle reportedly involved in serious incident|
|Primeira Liga Review: Braga leapfrog Guimaraes|
|Hughes upbeat despite Stoke defeat|