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"I don't know ... I don't really like to talk about myself." For someone who exudes such authority on the pitch, Ricardo Carvalho is surprisingly bashful when it comes to describing himself as a player.
No introduction needed
Fortunately for him, his achievements as a composed, ball-playing centre-back for FC Porto, Chelsea FC and Portugal over the last few years mean he requires little in the way of introduction. If he was more prone to self-analysis, Carvalho might reflect on how far he has come in the four
years since his performances for Portugal at UEFA EURO 2004™ earned him a place in UEFA's All-Star Team.
The tournament was a watershed moment in Carvalho's career. Left out of the opening match against Greece, he was brought into the side for the following game against Russia, which Portugal won. "It was very important, and since then I've always played," said Carvalho, who had a key role in the hosts' passage to the Lisbon final amid euphoric scenes nationwide. Coming between his influential part in FC Porto's UEFA Champions League triumph that year, and his subsequent move to Chelsea, UEFA EURO 2004™ represented a rapid upward trajectory. "It was fantastic," he told euro2008.com. "I felt an amazing sensation in those three months, because winning the Champions League was a dream."
The defender says that Porto's triumph created a positivity in Portugal which helped the national team in their home tournament. "Going to the final of the EURO after the expectations we had created during the UEFA Champions League, thanks to our club campaign, was great," he said. "To get to the final and lose makes you feel like you could have done a bit better, but until the final it was a great campaign. My transfer to Chelsea was also an objective of mine." The 30-year-old now takes his place as a senior player in Luiz Felipe Scolari's squad, and one of the coach's five appointed captains for the championship. "Mr Scolari has chosen me as one of the captains, because he believes I have the skills to lead the team and help out the younger players," said Carvalho. "I'm very honoured and if I'm seen as a role model by the younger players, that would be very good for me."
The appreciation between coach and player is mutual, with Carvalho hailing Scolari's achievements with the 'Selecção das quinas'. "He has been doing a fantastic job these last five years," he said. "We've always been present in the final phases of the EURO and the World Cup. And I think he united all the Portuguese people around our team." However, despite easing to a 2-0 opening win over Turkey, Carvalho hesitates to describe Portugal as one of the favourites for this competition , highlighting Spain, Germany and France as especially strong opposition. Yet he points out the successful regeneration of Scolari's squad as cause for optimism. "After 2004 we lost two players, Rui Costa and Fernando Couto, and then also lost Luís Figo, Pauleta and Costinha. I think that now we have individual class from the midfield onwards that can resolve a match and can make the difference." If Portugal's starlets are triumphant in Vienna on 29 June, Carvalho's experience from four years ago will have proved instrumental in guiding them there.
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