Goal.com is publishing exclusive extracts from Luca Caioli's new book, Ronaldo: The Obsession for Perfection. This last excerpt looks at disappointment with Portugal at Euro 2004
On Sunday 4th July, 2004 at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon, Portugal will face Greece. Interestingly, it is the ﬁrst time in Euro history that the same two teams who played the inaugural match will also close the tournament. They meet again after just 23 days – a ﬁnal that very few would have predicted at the start.
Before the tournament began, Portugal were considered one of the favourites, but the odds on Greece winning were more like 80 to one. The Greeks’ journey has not been an easy one. They came second in Group A after their win over Portugal, a draw with Spain and a defeat at the hands of the Russians. They beat current title-holders France in the quarter-ﬁnals and defeated the Czech Republic in the semis.
Scolari’s team watched the Czech match on TV and were shaking their heads at the outcome. "Greece again?" they said to each other. "We have to end it with the team who beat us at the beginning?!" But they are all convinced that history will be different this time around. They think they can win it and clinch the big title for Portugal.
The entire country is rooting for them, willing them to succeed. The whole of Lisbon is out in the streets waving and cheering and an enormous tide of supporters follows the coach as it carries the team to the stadium. The atmosphere in the stadium itself is electric, and at 19:45 that Sunday evening, the whole of Portugal comes to a standstill.
And let’s not forget the fact that Portugal haven’t lost in Lisbon for seventeen years, not in the Alvalade or in the Estadio da Luz. They are the host nation – something which was a deciding factor for Spain in ’64, Italy in ’68 and France in ’84.
But the home ground and the host advantage are worthless as Portugal stumble and fall into the same traps as before. The host nation’s story ends just as it began, with a defeat by the Greeks, 1-0 thanks to a header in the 57th minute from Angelos Charisteas. Greece have pulled off a Maracanazo – a term coined after Uruguay’s 1950 World Cup win over Brazil at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio. They have ruined the party planned with the blood, sweat and tears of an entire nation.
|The host nation's story ends as it began - with tears from Cristiano Ronaldo. Looking lost and alone in the centre of the pitch, he is oblivious to the consolatory words and gestures from his team-mates, crying at the sadness of it all
And the host nation’s story ends just as it began – with tears from Cristiano Ronaldo. Looking lost and alone in the centre of the pitch, he is oblivious to the consolatory words and gestures from his team-mates, crying at the sadness of it all. And crying over missed chances; like in the 59th minute, when Antonios Nikopolidis thwarted his chance; or in the 74th, when he had acres of space in front of goal but he sent his shot over the bar, the ‘Ahhh!’ from the crowd audible on the pitch. He is crying because he never could have imagined losing to Greece. Because "we had a fantastic team and we have played a great tournament and we don’t deserve to lose like this." Because he’s "an ambitious person" and he wants to be "the champion of Europe at nineteen years old".
"But now I have to move on," adds Cristiano. "I have to look forward. There will be many other opportunities to win in Europe throughout my career, and make up for this huge disappointment."
- Luca Caioli's book, Ronaldo: The Obsession for Perfection, is published by Corinthian Books and is out now. Order a UK copy here! Order a USA copy here!
With every extract published, Goal.com has given away one copy of Luca Caoili's new book, Ronaldo: The Obsession for Perfection. The last competition winner is announced below.
Last week's winner: Jim-ngormoh Kamara