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Portuguese coup for Couto

Published: Saturday 3 July 2004, 16.20CET
Captain Fernando Couto is hell-bent on a Portugal victory in Sunday night's UEFA EURO 2004™ final regardless of who gets to lift the trophy.
by Jorge Vicente
from Alcochete
Published: Saturday 3 July 2004, 16.20CET

Portuguese coup for Couto

Captain Fernando Couto is hell-bent on a Portugal victory in Sunday night's UEFA EURO 2004™ final regardless of who gets to lift the trophy.

Portugal captain Fernando Couto is hell-bent on victory in the UEFA EURO 2004™ final.

Portugal first
The veteran defender should start on the bench against Greece at the Estádio da Luz, but will be willing on his team-mates as he looks to fulfil his dream of "seeing the trophy stay in Portugal, regardless of which player gets to lift it tomorrow".

National dream
"It is a dream that every Portuguese person wants to become a reality," he said. "We just have to be as good as we have been in our last matches and give Greece respect as the great side they are. We have to do all we can to have the opportunity of sharing some glory with all our people."

Greek problems
Greece's 1-0 semi-final defeat of the Czech Republic was a shock result, but one that came at a cost. Greece will be without midfield player Georgios Karagounis, who is suspended after being booked against the Czechs, but Couto expects this to have little effect on the game.

'Tactical battle'
"If we had faced the Czech Republic, maybe the final would have been more spectacular, but Greece are a strong team and it will be a great tactical battle," he said. "The absence of Karagounis? I am sure Otto Rehhagel will find a quality replacement and Greece won't feel his absence on the field."

Nuno Gomes tribute
After the 2-1 semi-final win against the Netherlands, Portugal striker Nuno Gomes paid tribute to the trio of veterans at Luiz Felipe Scolari's command - Couto, Rui Costa and Luís Figo - who won the FIFA World Youth Championship in 1991 and have been seeking senior success ever since.

Leading by example
Couto, who will be 35 on 2 August, was touched by Nuno Gomes's statement that the presence of the experienced players had been a comfort and inspiration to their younger team-mates. "It shows the strength of the spirit within the squad," said Couto.

Common goal
"If we win, it will be great not just for us [older players] but for the whole squad, even those who aren't playing," he added. "We always tried to help the young players when they arrived in the national team. Of course I want to be on the pitch, but Portugal is more important than my personal desires."

Final fling
With the S.S. Lazio man nearing the end of his career, many have suggested that the final would be a fitting international swansong for Portugal's most-capped player. However, if Couto has made any retirement plans, he was not about to reveal them.

Appropriate time
"I am always available to serve my country as I have been in the last few years, but now is not the time to speak about whether I will retire," he said. "We are in the final of EURO 2004™ and there will be time to speak about that after the tournament."

Last updated: 03/07/04 17.58CET

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