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Braga break into big time

New faces: SC Braga secured a best ever Liga finish of second last term and impressive wins against Celtic FC and Sevilla FC have taken the Arsenalistas into the group stage.

Braga celebrate their play-off victory in Seville
Braga celebrate their play-off victory in Seville ©Getty Images

Having enjoyed their best Liga season in 2009/10 when they finished second, SC Braga are now making an impact in Europe after eliminating Celtic FC and Sevilla FC to earn a first UEFA Champions League group stage campaign. UEFA.com looks at the Portuguese debutants.

Who are they?
Formed: 1921
Nickname: Arsenalistas
League titles: none
Portuguese Cup: 1
UEFA Intertoto Cup: 1

Braga spent 12 seasons in Portugal's second division before finally gaining a taste of the top flight in 1947/48. Despite occasional relegations Braga eventually cemented their position among the domestic elite, where they have remained since 1975. However, their finest moment came in 1966 when a goal from Argentinian striker Perrichon earned a 1-0 win against Vitória FC in the Portuguese Cup final.

That success, orchestrated by former player turned coach Manuel Palmeira, earned a European debut with the team reaching the 1966/67 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup second round. Braga's rise was consolidated over the last decade as three consecutive fourth-place finishes, between 2005 and 2007, preceded the club's highest Liga placing in 2010 – when they were behind only SL Benfica in coach Domingos Paciência's first season to qualify for a UEFA Champions League bow.

One to watch
Matheus, 27, forward
Known for his speed and knack of scoring crucial goals, Brazilian forward Matheus arrived in Portugal in 2005 when he left AO de Itabaiana for second division FC Marco. Transferred to Braga in January 2006, he made just four Liga appearances that term and the next was loaned to SC Beira-Mar and Vitória FC. He only began to feature regularly for Braga in 2008/09 and last season played every Liga match, mainly as a substitute, scoring five goals. However, Matheus started this campaign in tremendous form with one goal against Celtic and two more against Sevilla.

Memorable match
Sevilla FC 3-4 SC Braga, UEFA Champions League play-off round second leg, 24 August 2010
Having already overcome former winners Celtic, Braga were presented with a tough play-off draw against Sevilla. A 1-0 home win gave them an advantage to take to Spain for the return, but few predicted their dominance at the Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán. First-leg marksman Matheus opened the scoring and substitute Lima's second-half hat-trick made sure goals from Luís Fabiano, Jesús Navas and Frédéric Kanouté were in vain.

Greatest player
A product of Braga's youth system, Portugal goalkeeper Eduardo made his Liga debut during the 2006/07 campaign when he spent six months at SC Beira-Mar. He was loaned out again the next season to Vitória FC where he won the League Cup. However, he returned to Braga in style and in 2009/10 his impressive displays helped the northern outfit finish second in the table. Eduardo ended the season with a flourish in the FIFA World Cup for Portugal, prompting Genoa CFC to pay €4.5m for his services.

Did you know?
Braga's kit resembles that of Arsenal FC – hence the nickname – which is said to be down to Hungarian coach József Szabó, who had three spells in charge between 1935 and 1961. Szabó had visited Arsenal in September 1935 and was so impressed with the north London club that he convinced Braga to change their original white and green colours.

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