His dazzling performances in Portugal's midfield may have made him a contender for the JVC UEFA EURO 2004™ Player of the Tournament award, but Maniche has put all thoughts of personal glory to one side. "I'm only thinking of becoming a European champion," he said.
Maniche was part of the FC Porto side which swept aside AS Monaco FC in May's UEFA Champions League final, and is now seeking an illustrious double with Portugal having reached the final of EURO 2004™. The host nation will play Greece on Sunday at the Estádio da Luz in a repeat of the tournament's opening game, a 2-1 victory for the Greeks. "Each team has a 50 per cent chance of winning the final," he said.
"We'll have to play with a lot of patience and be mentally strong as we're expecting to come up against a seven or eight-man defensive structure. There are no favourites in a European Championship final, both sides have to prove their quality to reach this stage."
The Player of the Tournament will be revealed on Monday, along with an All-Star Squad which could include the name of the 26-year-old Maniche. However, he said. "I'm not thinking about individual awards because winning EURO 2004™ is far more important at this moment. [Georgios] Karagounis's suspension is good news for us although his absence should not affect Greece's performance."
Maniche's displays are all the more spectacular bearing in mind he only won his place in Portugal's 23-man party ahead of Luís Boa Morte as the deadline for squad naming approached, having been overlooked following a 3-0 friendly defeat by neighbours Spain last September. "It was like a father's punishment to a son," said Maniche of his time out of the team.
Luiz Felipe Scolari put his faith in Maniche in the end, however, and has been rewarded. "Scolari is a good father and I'm glad of the opportunity to show my value to him over the next two years," he said. "We'll have his experience of being a world champion, and possibly our own experience of winning this competition, behind us at the next World Cup and I think that will be very important to us."
Pleasing the people
Maniche also thinks success will be important for the passionate Portuguese people. "It's not just about the team being in the final, but the people too. The Portuguese haven't been having the best time of it with all the problems which affect our society and it's great that the national team are giving people an opportunity to celebrate something."
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