Yet the tournament made world stars of the likes of Luis Figo, Rui Costa and Nuno Gomes.
All three played a part in their qualification for the World Cup, although they only edged Republic of Ireland out by goal difference.
The Portuguese built that goal difference up by taking full advantage of games against Andorra and Cyprus, where Gomes and Pauleta ran riot.
But perhaps the most important games were between Portugal and Holland.
The Dutch, who will be missing from Japan and North Korea, were beaten 2-0 at home by the Portuguese but had the perfect chance for revenge in the return game.
In Porto, goals from Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Patrick Kluivert gave the Dutch a two-goal lead with less than 45 minutes remaining.