SC Braga cannot match FC Porto's form or pedigree, but as captains Vandinho and Helton run the rule over their respective sides ahead of Wednesday's UEFA Europa League final, it is clear that, in terms of team spirit, they are equals.
Although less than 50km of the A3 motorway separates the two Portuguese sides, Porto and Braga are oceans apart in terms of top-class pedigree. The Dragons wrapped up their 25th Liga title at the beginning of last month, could notch their 16th Portuguese Cup triumph by the end of the week and arrive in Dublin seeking their seventh major international title. Braga's trophy cabinet contains a lone piece of silverware: the 1955/56 Portuguese Cup.
With 38 points dividing them in the final Liga standings there is a sense that Braga might be outclassed in Dublin, but Braga's dogged determination has seen them overcome similarly huge obstacles. "We have always taken one game at a time, always believing that anything was possible," said Vandinho. "
We have played as a team and displayed the warrior spirit that made us famous. We had to work very hard and that was the only way to make this final."
The Arsenalistas accounted for Liverpool FC, FC Dynamo Kyiv and SL Benfica on the way, belying their underdog status time and again. André Villas-Boas's side are used to the favourites' tag, however: they have worn it all season. "All players have worked for this," said Helton, dismissing the notion that it is all too easy for his side. "
We've got a squad that fights for the same objectives, as we're accustomed to saying: 'We all pull in the same direction.'
"Leading up to the final it'll be the same: we'll think the same way, work the same way – we don't have to improve or stop doing something because we've reached the final. The objective is always the same." Porto's aim over the past two rounds seems to have been to outscore the opposition, following up a quarter-final record 10-3 win against FC Spartak Moskva by beating Villarreal CF 7-4 in the last four.
Goalkeeper Helton, though, is eager for the praise to be shared across the pitch, expressing his gratitude to the "fantastic" four playing just ahead of him. Few defences are the equal of Porto's attack, as Braga know, but the rank outsiders are not perturbed. "Whatever happens this group is to be congratulated and we will leave the pitch with our heads held high," said Vandinho. "Just getting to the final is a victory. That said, we want to be champions."
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