They arrived in Portugal convinced that after some good early-season individual performances they could improve on Jon Brown's gold medal and the silver won by the women's team in Brussels last year.
But, despite being given a fine start by the junior women, who secured an unexpected bronze behind Germany and Yugoslavia, it was not to be.
Dominic Bannister was Britain's highest finisher in the men's 9.35km race in 17th. "That was the best race of my career, particularly as I know I was only a marginal selection," he said.
Britain's main hope, Keith Cullen, dropped out for a third successive major championship. The race was won by Denmark's Carsten Jorgensen in 27min 19sec. Portugal retained the team title ahead of France and Spain, with Britain sixth.
Britain's leading runner in the women's race was Vikki McPherson, who came 11th in 18:27. Victory went to France's Josianne Llado, who took 17:20 to cover the 5.45km course and led her country to success in the team event. Romania were second, Spain third and Britain sixth.
Rebecca Wade (12th), Sale's Amy Waterlow (15th) and Louise Kelly (16th) took the bronze medal in junior women's race.Reuse content