Braga coach Dito can look back on the most successful playing career of any of the coaches at the UEFA Regions' Cup finals, and can only hope that his CV might inspire the hosts to go a step further than 2001, when they lost to Czech side Central Moravia 4-2 on penalties in the decisive game.
A central defender for SC Braga, SL Benfica and FC Porto, Dito earned 17 Portugal caps in the 1980s, before moving into coaching with the likes of GD Chaves and Portimonense SC. The 49-year-old is now looking to enhance his managerial credentials at the 7th UEFA Regions' Cup finals, with his Braga team beginning their Group A campaign against another Czech side, Zlín Region, on Tuesday.
When it comes to preparing for this kind of event, knowledge is power, but as Dito told UEFA.com, the coaches at the world's top amateur tournament have very little to go on when it comes to scouting their opponents before opening night. "In football normally everybody knows everybody but here it's like playing in the dark," he said. "We don't know much about our opponents and they don't know much about us.
"The only thing we can do is to try to analyse our opponents' home countries and wait and see if they play the same kind of football as their national teams," added the host region's boss. "Whether a team has three, four or more players who can decide a game, we just don't know, but it's the same for everybody so we can't complain."
If all the other coaches are using a similar formula to spec out Braga, then they will not go far wrong; Portuguese football has always had the accent on style and skill, and Dito reckons his side have plenty of that. Moreover, he feels the opportunity to put work aside and focus purely on football for the duration of the tournament means Braga can only get better.
"Anyone who knows a bit of football knows that it is very different to train in the morning or at the end of the day," he said. "These players have day jobs and can only train later on, so they can't perform at 100%. I can tell you that it is much more difficult to coach an amateur team than a professional one. For instance, none of my players had been in a training camp before.
"Nevertheless we are very confident," he said, as he surveyed the rough diamonds in his squad. "
There are five or six players in my team who could easily play in the first division here. The quality is there and they just have to believe they are good enough." If Braga are indeed as good as Dito's word, Portuguese fans can start planning their celebrations for 28 June, the day of the final in Barcelos.
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