I decided that I would go to some of the matches in the 2004 European Championship. I bought 3 tickets in advance but did not know which matches I would see. One was for the quarter finals and it would be in Lisbon’s Estádio da Luz. It turned out to be the jewel in the crown for the matches I saw live with the Portuguese selecção. The date was the 24th June 2004 and the opponent was England.
England scored first a in the 3rd minute by Owen. Portugal worked hard for an equalizer that finally came by Postiga in the 83rd minute. The match had to go to extra time. A hard shot by Rui Costa in the 110th minute put Portugal ahead for the first time. It would not last though, as five minutes later and five from finish saw an equalizer by Lampard. After extra time the quarterfinal had to be decided from the penalty spot. My brother Pedro smoked non stop throughout the whole match. Ricardo the goal keeper became the hero for that eventful match. First he saved a penalty and then scored the winner. A night I will never forget!
My latest match with the National Team was in Coimbra on the 15th November 2006. For some reason that I have now forgotten I was in Portugal at this time. I asked my father to get us tickets for the match that was part of the qualification for the 2008 European Championships. The opponents were Kazakhstan and as the match was in Coimbra I had booked a hotel room. My father had not bought the tickets but was confident that there would be plenty – After all who wants to see Borat’s country in a football match? When we arrived in Coimbra it was pouring with rain. Frustration grew as we could not find the hotel. Eventually we got there and I went off to the stadium with the purpose of getting tickets. I was informed at the ticket office that it was sold out. Someone said I could go and speak to some students standing nearby. They asked me if I needed tickets which of course I did. They said that they didn’t sell tickets but if I bought some Portugal scarves they would give away the tickets. Said and done. What was the alternative? The tickets were good and it allowed us to see Portugal win by 3-0 with goals scored by Simão (2) and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Going to matches with the Portuguese National Team have been events well worth remembering.
Sweden and Portugal are set to play a decisive play-off to participate in next year’s World Cup in Brazil. Whilst trying to decide whether or not I should go to the match in Stockholm on the 19th November, I am recalling the matches I have seen live, with Portugal’s national team. My team!
First match I saw was a friendly as part of the preparation for the England World Cup of 1966. Portugal played Uruguay at the national stadium on the 26th June. José Torres scored all the three goals and my grandmother who had never seen a football match but was very keen on Eusébio felt very sorry for the Uruguayans and said that they should be allowed to score a goal.
I had moved to London in 1968 and one year later Portugal played a friendly on the 10th December 1969. England won by 1-0 after a goal by Jackie Charlton, so Portugal did not at this time revenge being knocked out of the England World Cup three years earlier.
In 1984 Portugal were in the same qualifying group as Sweden for the World Championship of 1986 in Mexico. Thanks to a late goal by Fernando Gomes Portugal could come home with a precious 1-0 victory. That match was seen surrounded by Swedes that had little or no understanding when João Oliveira and I jumped up to celebrate the goal. Much could be said of this Stockholm encounter but it is a story that will have to stand on its own.
Fate had it that Portugal and Sweden would once again play each other, this time for the European Championships. My fourth match was also in Råsunda, Stockholm, and was played on the 23rd September 1987. Even in this match Portugal came out as a winner. An early goal by defender João Pinto ( his only one, in 70 caps) was enough but neither of the two countries would reach the final phase in Germany 1988.
Before the 2004 European Championship that was organized in Portugal the National Team only played friendlies. It was on the 10th September 2003 that I saw Portugal defeat Norway by 1-0. The goal scored by Pedro Pauleta at the Oslo Ullevaal arena. Through our mobile we heard that Swedish foreign minister Anna Lindh had been knifed in Stockholm some hours earlier. Unfortunately she would no longer be with us the next day.