Oliveira returns to Portugal Job

Antonio Oliveira has been named as Portugal's new national coach, returning to the job he held between 1994 and 1996 when he guided Portugal to the quarterfinals of the European soccer championships.

Antonio Oliveira has been named as Portugal's new national coach, returning to the job he held between 1994 and 1996 when he guided Portugal to the quarterfinals of the European soccer championships.

Oliveira, 47, was charged with steering Portugal - which features the world's most expensive soccer signing Luis Figo - into the 2002 World Cup finals.

But Oliveira was also given the task of winning the European soccer championships in 2004, which will be staged in Portugal, Portuguese Soccer Federation president Gilberto Madail said.

"Portugal can legitimately aspire to win Euro 2004, though the first hurdle is the World Cup campaign," Madail told a news conference.

Oliveira said he was "very satisfied and touched" to be chosen, but he predicted a hard battle to reach the World Cup finals.

"It will be very difficult. Portugal hasn't got to the finals for 14 years," he said.

Oliveira's first test will be in an exhibition game against Lithuania on Aug. 16. Portugal's first World Cup qualifying match is against Estonia on Sept. 3.

Also in qualifying Group 2 are the Netherlands, Ireland, Cyprus and Andorra.

Oliveira replaced Humberto Coelho who quit after Portugal's stormy and, for home fans, frustrating exit from the Euro 2000 championships.

Inspired by the midfield magic of Figo, who recently moved from Barcelona to Real Madrid for dlrs 55.5 million, Portugal reached the semifinals but lost to eventual winner France on a disputed penalty in overtime.

Oliveira was a standout player for FC Porto during his playing career. He then pursued a modest career as a coach of several minor Portuguese clubs before taking over as national coach in 1994, chalking up a record of 13 wins, 5 ties and 4 defeats.

The moustachioed coach shepherded Portugal to the knockout stages of the Euro 96 finals in England where his side lost to the Czech Republic.

He resigned after that defeat and went to coach FC Porto, where he secured two consecutive championship titles.

In October 1998, took over at Spanish club Betis, then resigned after less than a month in the job after disagreement with club president.

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