Portugal meets the Netherlands in the semifinals of the European Championship today, with aging stars hoping for one last shot at glory.
With a loss, Portugal would bid farewell to captain Fernando Couto, Luis Figo and Rui Costa. The three were part of Portugal's "golden generation," so-named after they helped the country win the FIFA Youth World Cup in 1991. They have not led Portugal to a trophy since.
A victory for Portugal would mean the departure of Netherlands captain Frank de Boer, Jaap Stam and Marc Overmars. The trio was part of teams that lost in penalty shootouts in Euro 1996 and 2000 and the 1998 World Cup.
The Netherlands' only trophy is the 1988 European title.
All six veterans said they will retire from international soccer after Euro 2004.
"This is an important thing for me to win. For me and for my country," Figo said. "We have never been in a final of a prestigious tournament like this."
Portugal striker Nuno Gomes is recovering from an ankle injury and should be fit today. He is one of five Portuguese players who has scored; Costa has a team-high two goals. Cristiano Ronaldo, Maniche and Helder Postiga have the other goals.
Dutch Coach Dick Advocaat predicted an open, fast game, on the model of his team's 3-2 loss to the Czech Republic during the tournament's group stage.
"Like us, Portugal plays combination soccer," he said. "Which also gives us room to play."
Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy has four of his team's six goals and leads the tournament with 22 shots on goal. Winger Arjen Robben has three assists, second in the tournament, and had the winning shot in the penalty-kick shootout win over Sweden in the quarterfinals.
The winner today plays the winner of the Greece-Czech Republic game in the final.
-- From News Services