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EURO Classics: Portugal 3-2 England

Watch a topsy-turvy UEFA EURO 2000 group stage game on UEFA.tv – read this factfile first.

Portugal on the comeback trail in Eindhoven
Portugal on the comeback trail in Eindhoven

England looked to have steadied themselves as Kevin Keegan's side headed to UEFA EURO 2000, but their opening match against Portugal was an eye-opener.

WATCH RE-RUN ON UEFA.tv

Context

Highlights: The best goals of EURO 2000
Highlights: The best goals of EURO 2000

Kevin Keegan's England had scrambled to the finals in Belgium and the Netherlands with a play-off win against Scotland, but question marks remained over their ageing stars (Alan Shearer had already announced he would retire from international football after the finals). They could count on 25-year-olds David Beckham and Paul Scholes in midfield, but Humberto Coelho's Portugal boasted A-grade talent too, with Luís Figo and Rui Costa (at Barcelona and Fiorentina respectively) in their prime.

Key players

Luís Figo: A revelation in Spain following his 1995 move from Sporting CP to Barcelona, the attacking midfielder received the Ballon d'Or for 2000 – after completing a hugely emotive switch to Real Madrid, where he would win the 2001/02 UEFA Champions League.

David Beckham: The Manchester United midfielder with the Spice Girl wife was a superstar in England, though fans in Portugal apparently thought all he could do was cross a ball. That skill alone made him a key player in the Group A game in Eindhoven.

Five memorable EURO piledrivers
Five memorable EURO piledrivers

Rui Costa: This match featured some of the greatest midfielders of the age, with Rui Costa – in the midst of a 12-year spell in Italy – perhaps delivering the most outstanding display of all. He was transferred from Fiorentina to AC Milan the following summer.

What happened

Beckham had one foot in the morning's front pages within 18 minutes, his crosses setting up goals for Scholes and Steve McManaman, but the game soon slipped from England's grasp. Figo got one back with an eye-catching strike from distance (albeit it took a significant deflection off England's Tony Adams).

Portugal were phenomenal from then on; David Seaman pulled off a couple of great saves but could not stop João Pinto connecting with Costa's cross to level before half-time.

The interval provided little relief. Pinto skimmed the bar soon after the restart, then Costa's ball was dispatched by Nuno Gomes to make it 3-2 before the hour-mark. England fought on, but were well beaten.

Reaction

Great EURO comebacks: Watch five of the best
Great EURO comebacks: Watch five of the best

Nuno Gomes, Portugal forward: "After 20 minutes, I admit I was a little bit frightened because we were 2-0 down and there was still a long way to go. We weren't playing badly, but it crossed my mind that we could be in for a heavy defeat."

Costinha, Portugal midfielder: "I warmed up at half-time, warmed up for the entire second half and didn't get on, but the spirit was so strong that I didn't mind. We were so determined and we gave a great lesson in will, humility and ambition."

Luís Figo, Portugal midfielder: "We were 2-0 down so I said to myself: 'We have to take risks.' I got the ball from Rui Costa and decided to take advantage of the space to get closer to the area. I risked the shot, despite the distance, and it came off. That goal got us back into the game and sparked a result that made history for us."

Elsewhere that night

Holders Germany looked less than dazzling in their Group A opener, Erich Ribbeck's team falling behind after just five minutes in Liege as Viorel Moldovan netted for Romania. Mehmet Scholl made it 1-1, but with Gheorghe Hagi pulling the strings, Romania appeared the more likely winners and Moldovan passed up a great chance after the break.

Aftermath

EURO 2000 final highlights: France 2-1 Italy
EURO 2000 final highlights: France 2-1 Italy

"We took a blow but we will come back from it," promised England boss Keegan; they did by beating an out-of-sorts Germany 1-0 in their next game, only to then bow out with a 3-2 loss to Romania in their climactic group match. Portugal would be England's downfall again at UEFA EURO 2004, ousting the Three Lions on penalties after a 2-2 quarter-final draw.

The Portuguese papers were in raptures over the England result, meanwhile: "Fantastic! Memorable! Amazing! Class and character! Quality and courage!" wrote Record the following morning. The positive headlines kept coming as Portugal won all three of their Group A games, then beat Turkey in the quarter-finals before a golden-goal exit to eventual winners France in the semis.

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