It would be unfair to talk about the Hungarians in a demeaning way – Nuno Gomes
Former striker Nuno Gomes spoke to our portal about the Hungarian national team, the European Championship starting on Friday, and the European Championship loss on home grounds.
|Nuno Gomes retired in 2014 (Photo: Getty Images)|
– Can Portugal win the European Championship?
– Yes, but there are several national teams have a chance of winning the gold medal – Nuno Gomes, the former Portuguese national team striker who reached the semi-finals in 2000, the finals in 2004, and the quarter-finals in 2008 with his country, said in an exclusive interview with our portal. – I could mention several teams whose football history speaks for themselves, and which know exactly how to march all the way to the finale. Portugal is mentioned as one of the tournament's favorites for a reason, but the preliminary guesses are not worth much after a while. As soon as the European Championship starts, they will have to prove themselves on the pitch.
| Born: July 5, 1976; Amarante|
Caps/goals (1996–2011): 79/29
Clubs as a player: Boavista (Portugal, 1994–1997), Benfica (Portugal, 1997–2000; 2002–2011), Fiorentina (Italy, 2000–2002), Braga (Portugal, 2011–2012), Blackburn (England, 2012–2013)
Achievements: World Cup 4th (2006), European Championship runner up (2004), U18 European Champion (1994), 2-time Portuguese champion (2004-2005, 2009-2010), Portuguese Cup winner (1996–1997, 2003–2004), Italian Cup winner (2000–2001), 3-time Portuguese League Cup winner (2008–2009, 2009–2010, 2010–2011), Portuguese Super Cup winner (2005)
– What kind of match are you expecting against Hungary on Tuesday? Almost every expert says Marco Rossi's team doesn't have a chance, and even earning a point would be a feat.
– It would be unfair to talk about the Hungarian national team in a demeaning way. Everyone knows the balance of power. On paper, they really don't have much of a chance against Portugal, France, and Germany, and it would be a feat if they made it into the top 16. All three games seem to be difficult, but at the same time, the Hungarian team is good. As I've mentioned earlier, the opponents in the group with a bigger chance have to prove themselves on the pitch, too. Also, it shouldn't be forgotten that the Hungarian national team is playing on home grounds in front of tens of thousands of fans, and the team is unbeaten in 11 matches. Such a long series is not a coincidence – it shows that the first opponent in the group is a tough nut to crack. If the three golden-league teams take the meeting lightly, they may be in for an unpleasant surprise.
– What are the Hungarian national team's possible advantages against such tough opponents?
– Maybe it's the mentality. Fans and journalists may not know the Hungarian players as well as the German, Portuguese or French aces, but they can still play good football and are mentally strong. I'm sure they'll fight for 90 minutes, and they'll want to win. That's why no national team can play safe against the host.
– Is the current Portuguese national team stronger than the one that won the European Championship five years ago?
– It's hard to answer because only the results count in football. The team from five years ago was outstanding, and since it reached the top, we must say that players of the strongest generation in the Portuguese national team's history made up the squad. At the same time, if we go back in time a few years, and look at the 2000 and 2004 Portuguese teams and the attacking football we were playing then, the picture is less obvious. Our football may have been more stylish, but we didn't win the European Championship, while the team from five years ago did.
|The final lost 17 years ago still hurts Nuno Gomes to this day (Photo: Getty Images)|
– Then, how different is the current team from the one five years ago?
– Many of the gold medalists of that time are still in the squad, but players such as Ricardo Quaresma, Nani, Ricardo Carvalho, and Bruno Alves are missing. On the arrivals side we see footballers like João Félix, Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, and Diogo Jota. Perhaps the biggest difference is the average age of the players. Many of the key players in the team marching to the gold medal in France were over 30 years old and were taken over by younger players who also represent a high level.
– What's the strongest part of the team?
– We're doing well in all segments. Our defense is as solid as it was in the last tournament. In the meantime, Rúben Dias has been added to the backline, which is a significant reinforcement. The midfield has changed a bit, but Danilo Pereira, Renato Sanches, and William Carvalho from the gold medalist team are still the pillars. The head coach can also choose from good quality players in the attacking line-up. So, on paper, we're good. If we look at the three parts of the team individually, we see an extremely strong national team. At the same time, it's happened in football that a game was bumpy despite the best preparation and the best tactics, and the tournament of that group didn't go as planned. We certainly have to play football as a united team – fortunately, that hasn't been a problem for us in recent years. Furthermore, I'm confident that we'll be in good shape in Hungary, and that we'll already be at maximum speed in the first match.
– As you've already said, little more was needed for the so-called Portuguese golden generation to ascend the throne in 2000 and 2004. What was that little plus that was missing?
– The final lost 17 years ago still hurts me to this day. After all, the tournament was held in Portugal, we could've been crowned in front of our fans. The simplest answer would be that one goal was missing because that would've at least saved the finale against Greece with a draw. However, the answer is more complex than that. That Greek team was incredibly strong mentally, characterized by great tactical discipline and flawless organization skills. The opponent didn't make a single mistake; we tried everything out but couldn't score. After we were at a disadvantage, we tried everything. From all these years' perspective, I'd say we played by heart rather than by mind.
|The Portuguese football's legacy has gone from golden generation to golden generation: Nuno Gomes was also a technical player (Photo: AFP)|
– How did you feel after the final whistle?
– It's difficult to put it into words, and only those who were in Portugal that month can feel and understand this. We lived in a dream world, marched forward, the fans stood behind us, everything was given to win a gold medal. Even before the final, we couldn't imagine not getting the gold medal. Not because of arrogance, but because none of us believed the Portuguese dream wouldn't end with a victory. We didn't even think about losing, we were confident we were going to win. Unfortunately, life made it happen differently.
Translated by Vanda Orosz