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Tuesday, 27 June, 2000, 16:00 GMT 17:00 UK
Golden boys ready to shine
Portugal
Portugal finally ready reach maturity
Portugal's stylish progress in Euro 2000 is a coming of age for the so-called "Golden Generation."

The tournament has finally witnessed the transformation of glorious natural talent from under-achievers to a team of true world standing.

Portugal's current crop of players came off the country's production line together at the turn of the last decade, winning the World Youth Cup in 1989 and 1991.

The latter victory - on penalties against Brazil in front of 120,000 spectators in Lisbon's famous Stadium of Light - was expected to signal the start of a new era of glory,

It was simply the beginning of years of disappointment for Portugal, who promised much and yet achieved little at world and European level.

Dark horses

Portugal were world football's perennial dark horses. They were in constant contact with the elite and yet never threatened it.


Portugal
Influential Rui Costa
The country's domestic football suffered from the three-cornered domination of Porto, Benfica and last season's champions Sporting Lisbon.

It sparked an exodus of Portugal's prime home-produced talent, and the national team was undermined.

A collection of coaches have failed to mould the talent at Portugal's disposal into true contenders in a succesion of high profile tournaments.

The raw talent was also accompanied by an apparent lack of mental strength under pressure - until the arrival of current coach Humberto Coelho.

Coelho, a former international defender with 64 caps, has fashioned a side of technical excellence and mental toughness, as proved by their comeback from two goals down to beat England in their Euro 2000 opener.

Winning path

Figo is now rivalling Zinedine Zidane as one of the players of Euro 2000, while Rui Costa has produced the form that has made him a key performer for Fiorentina in Italy's Serie A.

And even Portugal's defence, earmarked as suspect by many before they kicked their first ball against England, have stood up to all examinations so far.

The combination of culture and creativity, mixed with the new found strength, has carved a winning path through Euro 2000.


Portugal
Portugal celebrate
Figo's brilliance proved the inspiration in the quarter-final victory over Turkey, and Portugal will look to him to exact a measure of revenge for the epic semi-final defeat against France in this tournament in 1984.

Portugal will face France as underdogs, but Coelho's team believe this is the time to put the years of failure behind them and put the country back on the pedestal enjoyed by Eusebio's legendary sixties side.

All this has led to a conviction in Portugal that it is now time for the graduation of the "Golden Generation."

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See also:

26 Jun 00 | France
Barthez: We will win
26 Jun 00 | France
Vieira ready for Portugal
27 Jun 00 | Euro2000
Petit back for France
26 Jun 00 | France
Leboeuf gets frank with Zizou
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