Damp squib for European champions

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The Independent Football

Greece has had its share of firework celebrations this year after the Euro 2004 success and the Olympics, but last night they had to endure pyrotechnics from their rivals' fans.

Greece has had its share of firework celebrations this year after the Euro 2004 success and the Olympics, but last night they had to endure pyrotechnics from their rivals' fans. Albania scored twice in the first 10 minutes in Tirana and hung on to beat the European champions 2-1 in their opening World Cup qualifying match in Group Two.

Edvin Murati put Albania ahead after two minutes and Adriaj Aliaj added a second as Greece looked a shadow of the team that upset the odds in Portugal this summer. Bolton's Stelios Giannakopoulos pulled a goal back before half-time, but Greece were denied a point when Foto Strakosha saved a powerful shot by Georgos Karagounis just before the end.

France began their attempt at rehabilitation after their fall from world and European champions to also rans with a lame 0-0 draw at home to Israel in Group Four. They will hope to do better in the Faroe Islands on Wednesday.

Italy overcame a poor start to beat Norway 2-1 in Group Five in Palermo. John Carew put Norway ahead after 42 seconds with a skidding shot, but Daniele De Rossi marked his debut in midfield by equalising three minutes later with a curling shot. Luca Toni, a substitute who plays for Palermo, won it for Italy in the 80th minute by converting Gianluca Zambrotta's low cross.

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