In 1966, led by the great Eusebio, Portugal reached the semi-finals after seeing off Brazil, only to lose to eventual winners England.
The country suffered a similar fate at Euro 2000, losing in the last four to the eventual winners France, who also knocked them out of the 1984 championships at the same stage.
Euro 2000 saw the arrival of the crop of youngsters who helped to win back-to-back World Youth Championships in 1989 and 1991 on the international stage.
Their success 10 years earlier had earned them the tag of the "golden generation".
And the crown jewel of the side is Luis Figo, current World Player of the Year and once the world's most expensive footballer.
"The nucleus of this squad has been playing together for more than 10 years," Figo said.
"Myself, Rui Costa, Joao Pinto and Jorge Costa were all in the team that won the 1991 World Youth Cup. Now we are all 29 or 30 and at our peak.
"Even if we do not win the World Cup, there is a belief among the squad that we can go a long way.
"We did well at the European Championships two years ago and have matured further."
While they may be peaking in time for Japan, there is also a feeling that these players are running out of opportunities.
Nine of the 23-man squad named by Portugal coach Antonio Oliveira on Monday are already in their 30s.
On top of that Figo, Pedro Pauleta, Abel Xavier and Rui Jorge will also be over 30 when the European Championships are held in Portugal in 2004.
The three players under 25 in the squad (Jorge Andrade, 24, Nuno Frechaut, 24, and Marco Caneira, 23) have just 15 caps between them.
The uncapped Daniel Kenedy, was the one surprise name in the Oliveira's squad that was named on Monday, but even he is 28 years old, suggesting there is no bumper crop of players waiting to take over from Figo and co.