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Braga out to dethrone Porto in Europa League final

Some are attaching FC Porto's colours to the UEFA Europa League Trophy but their ex-striker Domingos Paciência sees no reason why his SC Braga side's "dream" run cannot continue.

Braga out to dethrone Porto in Europa League final
Braga out to dethrone Porto in Europa League final ©UEFA.com

For many observers all that stands between all-conquering FC Porto and UEFA Europa League glory is a matter of hours but their former striker, Domingos Paciência, has other ideas as he aims to leave SC Braga on a high.

"I'm proud to have led Braga, after 90 years of existence, to this," said the 42-year-old, who has announced that Wednesday's game will be his last at the club. "It's a dream to get to Dublin but I don't want to wake up yet. I want to go on dreaming for one more day. When I wake up I want to be holding the trophy."

It is an image few could have imagined going into this campaign. Braga's collection of major trophies consists of a lone 1966 Portuguese Cup and before this season they had never advanced beyond the last 16 in European competition. Yet a combination of hunger, dogged resistance and drive has brought them to the cusp of continental glory. Such is their focus, Paciência did not even notice the trophy sitting next to him on Tuesday.

"I'm focused on that cup," he said after locating it. "I want to see my players lift it. I haven't been sleeping well, thinking about all the possibilities. Destiny has its irony – that's why we're facing Porto – but while they are favourites, in 1987 when I was part of the Porto team everyone thought Bayern München would win. We came through."

A Braga triumph would constitute an even greater shock. Porto have been in majestic form in what is still André Villas-Boas's first full season as a coach, finishing their Liga campaign unbeaten after a 2-0 win at CS Marítimo on Saturday. They won both games with Braga to move to 92 victories in 131 meetings with their northern Portugal rivals; the Arsenalistas have mustered 17 in reply.

Yet Paciência's men are underestimated at your peril. Their victims this season include six sides with European titles, Liverpool FC and SL Benfica chief among them – why not a seventh? Villas-Boas is certainly taking nothing for granted, pointing out that while he will reluctantly accept the favourites' tag being attached to his team, "Braga have beaten every favourite they've faced so far.

"We've been targeting this since [beating KRC Genk in] the play-offs nine months ago," the 33-year-old added, shorn of Cristian Rodríguez with a hamstring problem. "It's an obligation for a side like us to win everything we can and we made our commitment early this season. We just need to focus on playing our own game – it has got us this far."

So either Porto will be crowned UEFA Europa League winners or Braga will take their place among European footballing royalty. Whatever happens, while the Republic of Ireland's first UEFA club competition final has been somewhat overshadowed by the arrival of Britain's Queen, her majesty may have to share the limelight for a few hours on Wednesday.

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