By Rui Matos Pereira
After a disappointing start to the European season, with no Portuguese sides reaching the UEFA Champions League first group stage, FC Porto are doing their utmost to restore some national pride.
Porto are home to FK Austria Wien in their UEFA Cup second round second-leg match on Thursday with morale sky high. A 1-0 lead from the away leg has put them in the driving seat for a place in Friday's third-round draw, while they are also four points clear at the top of the Portuguese Super Liga after seven wins and three draws.
Such success is attributed to the work ethic and positive atmosphere introduced by coach José Mourinho, who learned his trade under Englishman Sir Bobby Robson at Porto, Sporting Clube de Portugal and FC Barcelona. The emphasis is on a combination of youth and experience at Estádio das Antas, and the club have ensured that players at all levels learn the same fast-paced pressing game to keep continuity throughout the ranks.
'Bow to Deco'
Mourinho is well regarded for getting the best out of his players, especially playmaker Deco, who has been given a free role and already scored five goals this season. Mourinho has used every opportunity to praise the Brazilian, claiming if he was a fan, "I would bow to Deco".
Likened to Figo
He added: "He does some brilliant things like the big stars, but he even does better: he works a lot for the team, he tackles and runs to help his defensive team-mates. That particular kind of character drives him to fight, defend and to recover lots of balls and passes.
He is a world-class player. The praise I am nurturing for Deco is only comparable to the praise I nurtured for Luis Figo during the four years I worked with him at Barcelona."
Added to such flair, is a backbone of experience such as goalkeeper Vítor Baía, centre-back Jorge Costa and a host of other seasoned professionals including Carlos Alberto Secretário and winger Nuno Capucho. But it is with young talent like right-back Paulo Ferreira and striker Hélder Postiga that Porto's bright future lies. It is all encouraging for a club with eight first group stage Champions League campaigns to their name, a record bettered by no other European team.
Wien are not doing so badly either. They are 12 points clear in Austria and will feel a one-goal deficit is recoverable. Crucially though, coach Christoph Daum is missing star man Djalminha. "We have of course no other player like Djalminha, but we will still try our best to achieve a surprise result," said the 49-year-old. "
With or without Djalminha our system stands and other players will have to stand in now."
The German coach is also without midfield player Jürgen Panis. Instead, Wien are counting on the likes of defender Didier Dheedene, who did not play in the first match due to injury, and forward Thorstein Helstad, who played only the last few minutes in Vienna.
If a turnaround in the tie is realised, Norwegian midfield player Raymond Kvisvik will almost certainly be the man behind it. He has impressed in recent matches, and Daum, like Mourinho, knows a talent when he sees one. "Kvisvik has class," he said. "He could build the impulse in the squad." Added to Deco's delights, it should be an entertaining match.
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