The greatest player of the Portuguese 'golden generation', Luís Figo, spoke today of the importance of Portugal's UEFA EURO 2004™ semi-final against the Netherlands tomorrow, describing it as "a great opportunity" to make history.
Portugal have been beaten semi-finalists three times in major tournaments - in 1966, 1984 and 2000 - and Figo, as Portugal's second most-capped player of all time with 107 appearances, knows better than most the significance of such moments.
'We will succeed'
"This is a great opportunity to reach, for the first time in Portuguese football history, the final of a major competition and we will do everything we can to achieve that," said the Real Madrid CF player. "We have 90 minutes to win a difficult game and I believe that we will succeed."
They will go into the match with the support of the entire country, Figo added, appreciative of their backing. "The Portuguese people know what our presence in the final would mean to the country, to Portuguese football and to us."
Failed to reappear
Figo was substituted in the 75th minute of Portugal's quarter-final win against England, with his side trailing 1-0, and walked straight down the tunnel to the dressing room, without even a glance at coach Luiz Felipe Scolari. He subsequently failed to reappear even to celebrate the ensuing victory in a penalty shoot-out.
There has been much talk about Figo's reaction to being substituted but today he said: "I thought about the result and I was angry we were losing the game. I didn't commit any crime and I don't need to defend myself."
Future on hold
Figo was also asked about his future in the national team. The 31-year-old replied: "I've been in the national team for 15 years and I will be here as long as the coaching staff continue to think that my presence brings quality to the team. I came here with the intention of helping my country win, but now is not the time to speak about the future. We will see after EURO 2004™."
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