Midfield masters hold the key: Portugal

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The Independent Online
1 Vitor Baia Porto

Normally cool under pressure, Vitor Baia is widely regarded as one of Europe's best goalkeepers (Age 26, 41 caps).

2 Carlos Secretario Porto

An attacking right-side defender or midfielder who is fast and likes to push forward (26, 13).

3 Paulinho Santos Porto

Defender who likes to attack, has a powerful shot and is a specialist at free-kicks (25, 12).

4 Oceano Sporting Lisbon

Defensive midfielder, formerly with Real Sociedad, who makes up in strength for what he lacks in finesse (33, 40).

5 Fernando Couto Parma

Shaggy-haired hard man at the centre of the defence. Transfer target for Rangers (26, 32).

6 Jose Tavares Boavista

A versatile defender who can also play in midfield. His great strength is his ability to read the game (30, 4).

7 Vitor Paneira Guimaraes

A veteran midfielder who has been in good form recently, although not in the starting side (30, 44).

8 Joao Pinto Benfica

Benfica's top scorer. A difficult forward to mark, one of the best in the domestic league (24, 34).

9 Ricardo Sa Pinto Sporting Lisbon

Quick forward who is one of the more temperamental and excitable players in the squad (23, 10).

10 Rui Costa Fiorentina

An outstanding attacking midfielder who likes to play just behind the front men (24, 21).

11 Jorge Cadete Celtic

Mozambique-born player who spent the bulk of his career at Sporting Lisbon before joining Celtic this year (27, 23).

12 Alfredo Boavista

Veteran goalkeeper who has been absent for much of this season but now returning to his best form (33, 3).

13 Dimas Benfica

A left-sided defender who also likes to push forward down the flanks to support his attack (27, 6).

14 Pedro Barbosa Sporting Lisbon

A good technical striker who moved to Sporting from Guimaraes last summer (25, 9).

15 Domingos Porto

Lightweight striker, he makes up for his lack of physical presence with top-rate skill. (27, 27).

16 Helder Benfica

Defender, slightly short of pace but he compensates for his lack of speed with tremendous anticipation (25, 19).

17 Hugo Porfirio Uniao Leiria

A young striker with a powerful shot. May have to wait for his chance in the starting line-up (22, 1).

18 Antonio Folha Porto

A speedy left-winger with a fine cross. More likely to be used as a substitute than as a starter (24, 19).

19 Paulo Sousa Juventus

The team's playmaker, the role he also performs for Juventus. A fine passer who stays deep (25, 24).

20 Luis Figo Barcelona

Developed by Bobby Robson at Sporting Lisbon, strong midfielder who prefers attack to defence (23, 27).

21 Paulo Madeira Belenenses

A central defender renowned for his tight marking. Probably on the bench throughout (25, 12).

22 Rui Correia Sporting Braga

Enjoyed a fine season with the northern side and has claimed the third- choice goalkeeper role (28, 1).

The team

A young side of no little flair, Portugal's attack, likely to comprise Joao Pinto and Domingos, is lightweight but gifted, while their midfield could be the best in the tournament. Rui Costa, Paulo Sousa, Figo and Oceano present a pleasing combination of skill and strength. Fernando Couto is the vital hard man at the back.

The coach

Antonio Oliveira was a skilful midfielder who became a coach with various Portuguese clubs, without winning any major honours. Critics have claimed his club coaching pedigree was inadequate for the demands of the national team, which he took over in 1994, but his record has been impressive. Second only to Artur Jorge in "moustache of the tournament" contest.

The fact file

Previous appearances in finals: 1960 (quarter-finals), 1984 (semi-finals).

Qualifying record: W7, D2, L1 (Group Six winners).

Top scorer in qualifiers: 6 Domingos.

Most appearances in qualifiers: 10 Rui Costa, Domingos.

Population 10.3m. Registered clubs 1,420. Registered players 81,200. Professional players 1,650.

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