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"Golden generation" blaze trail to FIFA World Cup
Never has the popular Portuguese phrase, "Third time is the right time," been so applicable to football. After twice before making it to the FIFA World Cup finals, Portugal have managed to go through to their third, the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan, with realistic hopes of achieving new heights in the world competition.
Portugal's "golden generation," which features the likes of Real Madrid's Luis Figo and AC Milan's Rui Costa, will carry the flag, fully prepared for the biggest test of their lives. Many of the players that compose the national side were part of the teams that won two FIFA World Youth Championships (Saudi Arabia 1989 and Portugal 1991). In addition, many were runners-up in the UEFA Under-21 Championship in 1994, and some reached the fourth position in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
This is the sixth time overall that Portugal will enter a major competition. Twice beaten semi-finalists of the UEFA European Championship, they also reached a more than creditable third place in the FIFA World Cup England 1966.
With Figo, whom many consider to be the best player in the world, leading the way, the Portuguese may be on their way to overcoming their tag of purveyors of beautiful football without ever getting results. As coach Antonio Oliveira said when he accepted the position, "We have to be the first, instead of being the best."
Significant past players:
Fernando Gomes, Paulo Futre, Jordao, Eusebio
-- 3rd 1966 FIFA World Cup England
-- 3rd UEFA European Championship France 1984
-- 3rd UEFA European Championship Belgium - The Netherlands 2000
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