Nuno Gomes has given the 'golden generation' credit for leading Portugal to the final of UEFA EURO 2004™.
The 27-year-old striker was a second-half substitute as Luiz Felipe Scolari's side won 2-1 against the Netherlands to book their place in Sunday's final at the Estádio da Luz - a first international final for Luís Figo, Rui Costa and Fernando Couto since they won the FIFA World Youth Championship 13 years ago. And Nuno Gomes was keen to point out that all three had played a major role in Portugal's success.
"Some of the players in the squad are 19, others are 34, but there is a strong spirit in the dressing room, mostly because of the presence of Rui Costa, Figo and Fernando Couto," he said. "No one deserves to be in the final of EURO 2004™ more than them and I am very happy for them all."
There was further happy news after last night's match as Scolari announced that he had agreed to lead Portugal for another two years, until after the 2006 FIFA World Cup. "It is good news for everybody," said Nuno Gomes. "He has brought happiness and winning experience in major competitions to the Portuguese squad and I think he is an expert in dealing with players. I am happy to have him for two more years with the national team."
Nuno Gomes also took time to thank Portugal's supporters for their backing. "I would like to dedicate this achievement to the Portuguese fans who always believed in the team even after the defeat against Greece [in the opening match]," he said. "They deserve to be in the final."
That 2-1 loss against Greece left Portugal's EURO 2004™ dream in jeopardy, but Scolari has managed to lift his side's spirits since. "We weren't able to control our anxiety in our first match, which we had been waiting for more than two years," said Nuno Gomes. "We were stressed for the opening game and even the players that are now doing a great job at the finals did not show the same form in that match."
There is now a chance that Portugal could meet Greece again in the final if Otto Rehhagel's men win through against the Czech Republic tonight, but Nuno Gomes - who won his 45th cap against the Netherlands - said: "I have no preference for the winner of today's semi-final. We will have to play at our very best to win the final of EURO 2004™ and, as soon as we know who we will be playing against, we will study them and try to find a way to beat them."
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