"We believed from the start we could go far," said Vitória SC goalkeeper Douglas, with last season's shock Portuguese Cup winners now a force to contend with in Group I.
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"This victory can inspire this great club to new heights," said Vitória SC coach Rui Vitória after his side beat SL Benfica 2-1 to win the 2012/13 Portuguese Cup – their first major trophy. "The road ahead is long, but qualifying for Europe will open new horizons for us."
It was a different story when Guimarães first reached a UEFA competition group stage; they picked up just one point in their 2005/06 UEFA Cup section and ended the season being relegated for the first time in nearly 50 years. However, while Rui Vitória's team have not been at their most sparkling in the Liga this time out, they top UEFA Europa League Group I after a club record 4-0 home victory against HNK Rijeka and a 1-1 draw at Olympique Lyonnais.
The Conquistadores – whose badge bears the image of Portugal's first king, D. Afonso Henriques – were even a little disappointed after failing to get the better of one-time UEFA Champions League regulars Lyon in France. "It was a little bittersweet because we felt we could have won, but we were facing very strong opponents," said the 43-year-old Rui Vitória. "Nonetheless, it is a result that allows us to keep alive our dream of going further in this competition."
Earmarked as a coach of great promise for his achievements with Guimarães, Rui Vitória has assembled a defensively rugged, counterattacking side who are used to punching above their weight. Their cup success last term followed financial problems which had forced the club to shed many of their better players, bringing in local youngsters to fill the gaps. Rui Vitória's squad is lean, but hungry. "We believed from the start we could go far in the Europa League and the results show we were right," said goalkeeper Douglas.
While Guimarães kept their cup defence on course with a 3-0 defeat of third-tier CD Fátima at the weekend, they expect a tougher assignment away to Real Betis Balompié on Thursday without suspended striker Moussa Maazou – a scorer in both previous Group I games. Guimarães, though, are not giving up hope. "We want to do well in every competition we enter," the coach explained. "We firmly believe we can go through to the next stage," added midfielder Marco Matias.