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I found this article on a link from Portuguesesoccer.com It's from a Japanese english language paper. In my opinion it strikes just the right chord, exciting and inspiring if you're Portuguese - worrisome if you're not! Long, but worth it.

It's now or never for Portugal's golden generation

Duncan Castles Daily Yomiuri Sportswriter

They've grown up playing together. Now they have the chance to win the World Cup together. So says Carlos Queiroz. The father of Portugal's "Golden Generation" of world-class footballers, he believes his nation will never have a better chance to win sport's greatest prize.

"I'll say that it's now or never," Queiroz, coach of the Portugal team that won back-to-back World Youth Championships in 1989 and 1991, told The Daily Yomiuri.

The promise of those under-20 world titles was realized at full international level two summers ago when a Portugal squad including a host of Queiroz's former charges produced some unforgettable football at Euro 2000.

Beautiful and compelling, Portugal blazed a glorious path through that European championship, reveling in stylish demolition jobs of Germany (3-0) and England (3-2), the latter all the more remarkable for Portugal's insoucient recovery from a two-goal deficit.

Pairing two of the world's most inspiring ball players in the middle of the park, Portugal rode Luis Figo and Rui Costa's brilliance all the way to the semifinal. There, France's world champions required a furiously disputed extra-time penalty to reach the final.

The French, of course, went on to win the tournament, but Portugal's pinpoint passing, fluid movement and artistic aggression remained for many the highlight of the three weeks in Belgium and the Netherlands.

And Queiroz believes the Portuguese have the necessary ingredients to produce a repeat performance in the World Cup.

"Fortunately Portugal at this moment have a combination of two things that are the main things to succeed," he said.

"One, we have a team with football culture, with national team culture. Because these boys they start together in the national team, most of them, at 14-years-old playing together. They grow up together.

"The second point is that above the team they have the personalities and experience and the genius that in the matches they can make the difference. Like Figo, Rui Costa, Fernando Couto..."

Center-back Couto and midfielder Rui Costa have been beating the cream of Serie A for several years with Lazio (Couto) and Fiorentina and AC Milan (Rui Costa). Figo, however, is the undisputed jewel in Portugal's gaudily glistening crown.

Figo once said, "Without the ball I am only half complete."

With one, he is so complete that Real Madrid made him the world's most expensive player, stealing him away from Barcelona in the summer of 2000. At the end of his first season in Madrid, Figo had won the Spanish league title and was on his way to being named 2001's World Footballer of the Year.

Twelve months after purchasing Figo, Real topped his 53 million dollars fee when they brought in Zinedine Zidane, the force majeure of France's World Cup and European Championship winning midfield, to play alongside the Lisbon native.

Queiroz is relishing the opportunity to watch Madrid's two regal figures battle for supremacy at Korea-Japan 2002.

"In my opinion we have a beautiful period in the world with the excellence of players that have come up in this moment," Queiroz said.

"I used to say that football was leaving that period where we have the teams--where Pele was the team, where Eusebio was the team, where (Johan) Cruyff was the team, where (Diego) Maradona was the team.

"Now we have princes around the world, a lot of them and each competition they fight for who is the king of the moment, but not the king as Pele was--'The World is mine.'''

Though the game has become faster and tactically smarter, and can no longer be dominated by a single player for an extended period, princely figures such as Figo and Zidane are still essential to compete for the top prizes, argues Queiroz.

"I will say that when you have Figo in the team as well as Argentina when they have Maradona or Brazil, Pele or Holland have Cruyff, something can happen. Because when Figo plays well Portugal win, when Portugal plays well and Figo plays well Portugal still win," he said.

"And this is exactly the same that can happen and that happened before with other players with the calibre of Pele and Maradona. If Maradona plays well Argentina win. If Argentina play bad and Maradona plays well, they still win. So they have everything."

Portugal's first-round matches are in South Korea, where Antonio Oliviera's men are firm favorites to top a group rounded out by the Korean cohosts, the United States and Poland.

Until March, Queiroz was set to join them there, albeit working for another nation, as coach of South Africa.

However the South African Football Association, seemingly oblivious as to why its national team failed at France '98 after a certain Frenchman by the name of Philippe Troussier was handed control just three months before the finals, forced Queiroz out following a quarterfinal exit from the African Nations Cup in Mali.

It's easy to feel that the South Africans will live to regret dispensing with the 49-year-old former Nagoya Grampus Eight, Sporting Lisbon and Portugal boss, who succesfully guided Bafana Bafana through World and African Nations Cup qualifying campaigns.

An intelligent man with a Masters degree in football, Queiroz left his native Mozambique in 1975, moved to Portugal, and made rapid progress through the coaching ranks of the national federation.

By the late '80s he was in charge of a highly talented, but psychologically weak group of youngsters. The key to making them world champions was to build self-belief.

"We challenged those players to have more personality on the field," Queiroz recalled.

"All of them. I picked those players at 14, 15, some of them 13-years-old, and I remember that at 16 our players were shy, they don't talk. They were very nice looking boys, but 50 meters away from the girls.

"And when we went for championships, they're very nice, but the French guys they go and they talk to the girls and our boys they stay behind.

"They need a coach behind them to force them to grow up," he added.

"It was a very sensitive point that I realized when I arrived at the national team. With that attitude of our players, when we crossed the border it was immediately 0-3 against us. Because when we land in France, for our boys everything was good--the buildings were good, the cars were good, everything was good. So when the match started it was 3-0 for France.

"It was exactly the different approach, the psychological and mental point of view, that changed the mind of these boys. We come here to play football and inside the field forget the buildings, the cars and everything that is around. It's eleven against eleven.

"And I must say you can see that they grow up a lot. Probably some people say they grow up too much, because some of them, they want to control the world."

When the Portuguese open their campaign against the Americans on June 5, Figo will be 29-years-old, Rui Costa 30 and Couto 32.

Even if they are still together in four years time, the Golden Generation is likely to have turned too silver to be a force at Germany 2006. This is their last chance to control the world of soccer.

What Queiroz fears may stop them is Portugal's lack of World Cup history. Korea-Japan represents only a third appearance in the Mundial, and the country's first since 1986.

"In the World Cup it's a different story. The World Cup, in my view, you have the traditional and historical countries--which are in the first line--like Brazil, Argentina, I'll say France and Italy. For me, they'll run as the first candidates," Queiroz said.

"In the second line I'll put Portugal, for sure.

"I'll say that Portugal today, from the technical point of view when they approach one competition they're candidates for one of the honor positions. In these kind of competitions when we talk about semifinals, these are the honor positions and Portugal is a serious candidate to be there in the final four."

And does he worry that his proteges' star status may hamper their chances? That the confidence he instilled in them might have left them too many girls and a diminished desire for glory?

"No. It's not the quantity. It's the quality, you know. That makes the difference."

For girls and the World Cup the same.

The Golden Generation is about to have its quality tested.

5,629 Posts
Nice Article!

13,074 Posts
Yes it is a great article, I even read it several times. I posted a topic called " Pressure Is On ", that topic is based on some of the statements stated in that article.
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