The leader of Portugal's 'golden generation', Luís Figo was already an established senior international by the time of the 1994 UEFA European Under-21 Championship.
Figo – who had scored in the final shoot-out victory against Brazil in the FIFA U-20 World Cup three years earlier – sat out the majority of the qualifying campaign and when he did eventually appear, in Portugal's final fixture against Italy, he was powerless to prevent his country sliding to a 2-1 defeat. Qualification for the last eight had already been assured, however, and Figo played all 180 minutes as his country defeated Poland 5-1 on aggregate – battling performances which would see him pick up a yellow card in each leg and a suspension for the semi-final with Spain.
Portugal nevertheless recorded a 2-0 victory to set up a rematch against the Italians in the French town of Montpellier. With the likes of Francesco Toldo, Fabio Cannavaro, Christian Panucci and Filippo Inzaghi in the Italian ranks and Rui Costa, Jorge Costa, João Pinto and Abel Xavier representing Portugal, the final was an even contest with the sides still deadlocked after 90 minutes. Paolo Orlandini's strike seven minutes into extra time finally settled it in Italy's favour, leaving Figo and his team-mates dreaming of greater glories to come.
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