As seven teenagers wait in anticipation to make their mark at UEFA EURO 2012, there is one older head travelling to the finals who could have been forgiven for thinking his chance had gone.
After recently celebrating his 29th birthday, Custódio was the oldest of the uncapped players in the 16 squads selected for Poland and Ukraine. The moment that the SC Braga man received the call will live with him forever. "I was at home with my wife and kids," he said. "
They all jumped on top of me. It was like I'd just scored."
Once the euphoria had died down Custódio contemplated big changes to his summer plans, which are likely to include a first international appearance tonight as Selecção das Quinas take on Turkey in a Lisbon friendly.
If Custódio has time to reflect on his journey, he might consider it fate that Paulo Bento brought him here. The Portugal coach was a senior player at Sporting Clube de Portugal when Custódio made his first-team debut for the club in 2003, the same year in which the then 20-year-old appeared for his country's Under-21 side for the first time.
After becoming Sporting head coach in 2005 – little more than a year after ending his playing career – Bento oversaw two other major milestones on Custódio's professional path: making him team captain in 2006 and then selling him to FC Dinamo Moskva the following year.
Since returning to Portugal with hometown club Vitória SC in 2009, Custódio has been as steady and reliable as ever. Yet strangely for a man who has scored just eight league goals in over a decade, the midfielder has begun to specialise in important strikes.
Custódio’s near-post header in the 2010/11 UEFA Europa League semi-final second leg beat domestic rivals SL Benfica and saw the Arsenalista through to an all-Portuguese final against FC Porto in Dublin. This season, his swerving long-range effort against SC Beira-Mar in Braga's penultimate game of the season secured UEFA Champions League football for the second time in three years.
Bento will hope he has one more in the locker for UEFA EURO 2012, although Custódio's hard work and understated style suggest the coach has already made a wise choice.
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