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Portugal's warriors find killer instinct
Karen Iley | July 02, 2006 19:56 IST
Portugal have displayed a new-found determination and killer instinct to reach the World Cup semi-finals for the first time since 1966 despite needing a penalty shootout to overcome England [Images] on Saturday.
Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said a "warrior spirit" coupled with talent and a positive atmosphere in the squad had taken Portugal to their best World Cup showing since Eusebio's glory days and could see them lift the trophy in Berlin on July 9.
"We have a good team and can go even further as we advance. The spirit in this team is a warrior spirit... That is what was missing in Portuguese football," said the Brazilian.
"It's easier to work when we have victories under our belt and statistics in our favour," he added. "We can aspire to more as we get ready in these four days. We have to participate more, show more commitment, more care."
Portugal went out of the World Cup four years ago in the first round and lost to Greece in the European Championship final in 2004, which they hosted and were favourites to win.
But there has since been a turnaround with the emergence of a gritty resolve to win - at all costs - which they displayed in their matches against England and during a bad-tempered 1-0 second round victory over Netherlands.
"We know we have the killer instinct now, but we're not really sure why," said midfielder Hugo Viana, beaming after his side beat England 3-1 on penalties.
"This victory will give us more confidence. But in Portugal we have our feet on the ground. We do not have stuck-up personalities.
"I think we will do something special in this World Cup. We already have," he added.
The players are obviously friends, laughing and joking in training sessions and news conferences, but it seems 'Big Phil' Scolari has converted that camaraderie into a lethal weapon.
"In the national team the ambience is always great, but in the last years we are getting better because we have a coach who believes in that and that makes us stronger," said captain Luis Figo.
The playes have described Scolari as an inspirational father figure but his most valuable contribution has been to pass his indestructible self-belief on to his hitherto insecure players.
Striker Helder Postiga said it was this new assurance that saw them through against a tough England side.
"In this game spirit was important and I think Portugal demonstrated this... We played very well and displayed our character today," he said.
Scolari has four days to reflect and rest injury concerns Figo, who pulled a leg muscle, and Cristiano Ronaldo [Images], who was still feeling the thigh injury he picked up in the Dutch clash, before they meet France [Images] in Wednesday's semi-final in Munich.