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Sunday, 25 June, 2000, 15:10 GMT 16:10 UK
Figo can rule the world
Luis Figo
Portugal have been inspired by Figo's play
Luis Figo can emulate Brazilian star Rivaldo and become World Footballer of the Year, says Portugal team-mate Abel Xavier.

The Everton midfielder has been dazzled by Figo's performances in Euro 2000, which have helped steer Portugal to the semi-finals.

"Figo is just unbelievable," said Xavier. "I have played with him for 15 years and I know how good he is.

"Now he is playing in a successful Portugal side and everyone can see how good he is - he will win Footballer of the Year.

Trophies

"He always plays well for Barcelona, but to be voted the world's player of the year most players have to do well for their national team and win trophies.



I have played with him for 15 years and I know how good he is

Abel Xavier

"He can still improve because he's only 27, and there is no limit to how good he can be."

Figo created both goals for Nuno Gomes in the 2-0 victory over Turkey in the quarter-finals and is now bidding to fire the Portuguese into their first-ever final.

Xavier, fighting to get back into a winning side after an injury early in the tournament, doesn't under-estimate Figo's importance in a team packed with individual flair.

Impossible

"Quality players are difficult to stop," he said. "Before we played England we said we wanted to stop the crosses from Beckham but we realised that it's almost impossible.

"It's difficult to stop Figo. Teams don't know where he will be, they can't predict where he is going to play."


Abel Xavier
Xavier: admires team-mate Figo

Xavier added: "I think we've surprised 12 million people in Portugal.

"We were under pressure from the media who saw players winning trophies with Europe's top clubs and they ask why we don't win for Portugal.

"For many years we have been criticised because we would play well but not score. People said we did not have a goalscorer but now we are the best goalscorers.

Crucial

"It was not because we didn't have a striker that we didn't score. Teams must have the facility to score in the side and we have that.



One of our main assets is the atmosphere in the dressing room

Abel Xavier

"The players are not surprised by how we've played but the way we got the result against England was crucial. We took confidence from that game.

"One of our main assets is the atmosphere in the dressing room. We have no problems. Everybody knows each other and we have been friends for 15 years.

"We can play with our eyes closed because we all know where the other player will be."

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See also:

24 Jun 00 | Euro2000
Portugal book semi-final place
24 Jun 00 | Photo Gallery
Portugal v Turkey in pictures
24 Jun 00 | The BBC Team
Lawro spots chinks in Portugual armour
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