Team profile: Portugal eye elusive crown

Lisbon, May 22:

It would be somewhat ironic were Portugal to at last win a senior trophy with their so called

‘golden generation’ having now retired without a winner’s medal around their necks.

For years Luis Figo, Rui Costa, Paolo Sousa and Pedro Pauleta plugged away fruitlessly trying to transform their super achievements as junior players into something at senior level — going out in the Euro 2000 and 2006 World Cup semi-finals and losing to Greece in the Euro 2004 final the closest they came to the elusive prize.

Their squad this time may be less experienced and boast less familiar names but in Cristiano Ronaldo they possess probably the best player in the world at the moment and a player capable of turning a match in a second. The one concern will be that it will be too much pressure on a player that is still only 23 and that the kickings that he gets in the Premiership for Manchester United will only be exacerbated at the championships and with the hardbitten Turks up first coach Luiz Felipe Scolari will be praying he comes through unscathed.

Any such treatment from the Turks could see an equally fiery face to face between the two coaches as Scolari is not one to shirk a confrontation and his Turk counterpart Fatih Terim is more than a match. “According to me, Ronaldo is the best in the world,” said Scolari, who is certainly not a man to be argued with.

Portugal’s midfield will still boast the talents of the experienced Deco, who will be keen to set aside memories of a desperately disappointing campaign with Barcelona, and Benfica’s Petit, though the Brazilian coach found it possible to leave out Inter Milan’s Maniche.

Up front Scolari can still count on the vastly experienced Nuno Gomes, who goes back the whole way to Euro 2000, Simao Sabrosa, who had an excellent season with Atletico Madrid and Helder Postiga, so they should be able to take some of the pressure off Ronaldo.

In defence too Scolari will be looking to Ricardo Carvalho to marshal the back four and the coach is confident that his squad of 2008 will be capable of making as strong an impression as the one of 2004.

“We have as good a chance as we did in 2004,” claimed Scolari, who guided Brazil to the 2002 World Cup title.