Leading article: Friends and rivals

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There is one of them to every six of us. Their bread is a good deal tastier than ours, but the salt cod they so delight in we can take or leave. They are our oldest allies: our common enemy was Spain. They share our long and distinguished history of seafaring. We owe it to their ocean adventurer, Vasco da Gama, that the sea passage to India was opened up so that we could exploit it.

They gave us our taste for a certain vintage after-dinner drink. George Galloway MP is one of 50,000 Britons who likes them enough to have a second home there. And, of course, their national coach had the nerve to turn down the England job after sampling the sort of treatment he could expect from sections of our press.

So here's to the Portuguese. And whatever happens in a certain Ruhr city stadium today, let's not hold it against them. Much though we might crave vengeance for Euro 2004, the oldest alliance is too precious to lose.