By Rui Matos Pereira
European football legends Eusébio and Ruud Gullit met on Monday as the first tickets for the finals of UEFA EURO 2004™ went on sale.
The two players, both European Champion Clubs' Cup winners and European Footballers of the Year, were among the dignitaries who gathered in Lisbon for the official ceremony to mark the beginning of the ticket sales operation for the finals.
Eusébio, the official ambassador of EURO 2004™, and Gullit, who was a winner of the 1988 UEFA European Championship with the Netherlands, were the first people to receive official ticket application forms for the finals of next year's tournament, and both were excited by the prospect for supporters.
I am confident that the ticket sales will be an enormous success," said Eusébio. "I believe that the Portuguese fans, given the opportunity to participate in such a big and important event, will not waste it. Our country has already hosted the  FIFA Under-20 World Championship, but this is far more popular and I am sure that Portugal will stage a wonderful tournament."
The Portuguese icon told euro2004.com that it "was pleasure to attend a ceremony with Ruud Gullit" and that, during the ceremony, the Dutchman confessed that he "always was a fan of my football, a compliment which made me feel very, very proud".
Gullit himself expressed his confidence that Portugal would host a tournament which would be a credit to the European Championship. "Portugal and UEFA have assembled all the conditions so that EURO 2004™ can be a memorable competition," he said. "We do not know which teams will qualify, but it will certainly be an event [in which] the fans will see very good football."
The former Feyenoord, PSV Eindhoven, AC Milan, UC Sampdoria and Chelsea FC player took the opportunity of a trip to Lisbon to visit the stadiums in the capital city which will host matches, and declared himself deeply impressed with the venues.
"I have visited Luz and José Alvalade stadiums and I was delighted with the comfort and dimension of the venues," he said. "Of course, I have only seen two stadiums, but I can imagine that the remaining ones will follow the UEFA pattern and will be marvellous venues, where fans will enjoy a great atmosphere".
The coach of the Dutch U20 side also expressed his hope that the host nation would finally do themselves justice on the European stage. "
I was always a great fan of the Portuguese national team, especially due to the generation of players like Luis Figo and Rui Costa," he said. "It will be a shame if these players' generation does not achieve a good result in the tournament."
The man who scored the opening goal of the 1988 final against the Soviet Union added that "being a host is no guarantee of success. Look at the Netherlands at EURO 2000™". The Dutch were knocked out of that tournament after a penalty shoot-out against Italy in the semi-finals. "Only God knows how much the Dutch people suffered after the shoot-out," said Gullit.
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