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Wednesday, 3 April, 2002, 09:33 GMT 10:33 UK
Portugal's summer of 66
Portugal striker Eusebio in action against Hungary in the group stage of the 1966 World Cup
Eusebio fired Portugal to the 1966 semi-finals
It is hard to believe that Portugal, one of the top teams in Europe today, have only ever appeared in two World Cup tournaments.

With stars such as Nuno Gomes and Rui Costa in their ranks, not to mention current World Player of the Year Luis Figo, Portugal were one of the most attractive teams at Euro 2000.

They pushed world and eventual European champions France all the way in the semi-final before losing to a hotly-disputed Golden Goal penalty.

But before that summer two years ago, Portugal fans had experienced 20 years of hurt.

That yawning era, punctuated only by a dismal showing at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, stretched back to the days when Eusebio led Portugal to the semi-final in England.

Portugal's 1966 showing


Group 3 W 3-1 Hungary

Group 3 W 3-0 Bulgaria
Group 3 W 3-1 Brazil
Q-final W 5-3 N Korea
S-final L 1-2 England
3rd/4th W 2-1 Russia

The inside-forward was the star man in a side which boasted several of his Benfica team-mates.

Benfica were one of the best club sides in Europe at the time.

They reached four of the five European Cup finals prior to the 1966 World Cup, and won two of them.

Eusebio possessed a powerful physique, blistering pace and his lethal right foot saw him take the Golden Boot with nine goals.

He almost single-handedly won the quarter-final at Goodison Park when Portugal were on the verge of an embarrassing defeat to North Korea.

They trailed 3-0, but four goals from Eusebio, including two from the penalty spot, sparked a dramatic comeback to secure a 5-3 victory.

Hopes dashed

By that stage many felt Portugal were good enough to win the tournament.

But with home advantage, and two goals from Bobby Charlton, England edged their semi-final meeting at Wembley.

Another late Eusebio penalty threatened a fightback but it was to be England's day.

Portugal went on to finish third when a Eusebio penalty and an effort from tall Benfica striker Torres won the play-off with Russia 2-1.

After that, Portugal vanished from the World Cup scene until 1986.

In Mexico, they achieved a modicum of revenge over England, beating them 1-0 in their first match.

But defeats to Poland and Morocco saw them finish bottom of the group.

They are almost certain to do much better this time around.

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