It's now or never for Portugal
Figo gets his last chance to lead golden generation of Portugal football to glory.india Updated: May 27, 2006 02:23 IST
Years of unfulfilled promises, futile perspectives and forlorn hopes will reach a conclusion of sorts — good or bad — in Germany 2006 for Portugal.
It will be the last opportunity for Luis Figo to do something great with his team. The player, currently at Inter Milan, could be the last representative of the so-called 'golden generation' of Portuguese football. Fernando Couto is no longer in his side, although Rui Costa — the other great star of the team which won the junior World Cup in 1989 and 1991 — could still play in Germany after making himself available again for international duty.
Figo at 33 was FIFA's world player of the year in 2001, and had already resigned himself to his fate and left the National team. But he decided to give himself one more chance, settled his differences with coach Luiz Felipe Scolari and other players, and took part in the last six matches in the qualification rounds.
When the star came back, the team was well on the track to qualification. Portugal got its its passport stamped, winning with total authority a group in which they relegated Slovakia to the play-off round and knocked Russia out of the tournament altogether. The secret of success was based on the iron discipline imposed by Scolari, who will return to the World Cup competition after winning the title with Brazil in 2002.
Since his arrival, Portugal has become a very balanced team: he has drummed into the permanent individualists — represented by Figo, Deco and Cristiano Ronaldo — a tactical order, symbolised also by the midfield player Maniche, the ‘lung’ of the team. The team already has proved its worth in 'its' Eurocopa — the 2004 European Championships — where only the ultra defencive Greek team managed to halt their progress in the final in Lisbon.
“Portugal should be among the top eight teams in the World Cup because that is its position,” believes Scolari.
Figo, well aware of previous failures, tries to be slightly more prudent: “To say now we are going to be world champions is to put more pressure on the players. We are going to do the best possible and we are not lacking in determination and persistence. But to win a World Cup is very complicated.”
However, the hope of achieving something great still capitivates the old old star, “What is certain is that it costs nothing to dream.”