Leader of Portugal's golden generation has to settle for silver

It was always to be an epilogue of Portugal's golden generation, crowned world youth champions in the original Stadium of Light more than a dozen years ago, and consequently spawning such great expectations. There was supposed to be a happier ending, in which Luis Felipe Madeira Caeiro, 31, better known as Luis Figo and captain of his country, was to be the last survivor who ensured all his former play-mates would not look back in sadness at so many years of hurt with nothing to show for them.

Instead, the memories will be of a night of anti-climax in which he was a peripheral figure who might even have suffered the ignominy of substitution as against England.

Throughout the game he tried everything to disturb the man-for-man marking that had served Greece so well in the past three weeks. Beginning on the right with Panagiotis Fyssas breathing down his neck, he had swapped flanks with Cristiano Ronaldo after less than three minutes and would so do constantly from then on. If Giourkas Seitaridis, the right-back, lost possession or Fyssas ventured forward, there would immediately be another white shirt or two homing in. The Greeks under Otto Rehhagel are nothing if not well drilled.

With so much at stake even the greatest suffer nerves: Figo's set pieces were disappointing, corners and free-kicks either not clearing the first defender or hit too long. Even before the end of the scoreless first half, frustration was visible in his body language and could be imagined in the words directed at Pauleta when the latter selfishly shot from 35 yards.

As the Greek goal went in, the great man's head dropped briefly before a clap of the hands attempted to rally troops, most of whom wore a distinctly shell-shocked look. Ronaldo, the sorcerer's teenage apprentice on the other wing, looked more threatening but from the captain, though, there was nothing until one twist and shot in the last couple of minutes. He may even have looked up with some relief to see that Pauleta's number was up when the coach decided at last to send on Nuno Gomes. Now Figo's surely is as well.

Against England down in the Algarve last February he had reached 100 international appearances; last night's, his 109th and probably last, equalled the national record set by Fernando Couto, who cannot be expected to add to his total either

The latter was one of that celebrated generation to fall by the wayside during the tournament, dropped after the first game here - against Greece of course - along with his near-contemporaries Rui Jorge and Rui Costa, the latter announcing his international retirement on the eve of the final. More will surely follow before they are pushed.

Others of the same group had been cast aside even before the tournament, like the goalkeeper Vitor Baia and Jorge Costa (who both became European club champions with Porto in May) and Joao Pinto with them.

But Figo remained through it all, European Footballer of the Year and World Player of the Year along the way, a triumph with his country at senior level his greatest desire. "Nothing beats the national team," he insisted in the match programme: "Playing in the national team is the maximum objective for any football player. Ever since I started at 16 I've been enthusiastic about offering my services. And one of the nice things about playing at home is that the fans can get out into the street and really show their support for the team. The people express the spirit of discovery and conquest that we have had for generation after generation." Time now, at last, for a new generation to take on the mantle.

News
news
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders