The retirement of Portugal's 'golden generation' has barely caused a blip for the national side. With the exit of stars like Luis Figo, Rui Costa and Fernando Couto has come the blossoming of Deco, Pepe, Simao and Cristiano Ronaldo. The current crop of Portuguese heroes are yet to reach their full potential and may even exceed the achievements of their predecessors.
Euro 2008 was the first outing for the new generation and despite a quarter-final exit to Germany the side gave glimpses of what they are capable of in wins over Turkey and the Czech Republic. With Joao Moutinho and Petit keeping things tight in midfield and Deco, Simao and Ronaldo marauding forward, Portugal were at times breathtaking. The squad is growing in maturity all the time and it will not be long before they are serious challengers on the world stage.
So often the nearly-men in the last decade it seemed that Portugal would finally break their duck at Euro 2004. With fantastic support from the home crowd, Felipe Scolari's side beat Russia, Spain, England and Holland on their way to the final. But for the second time in the tournament they were on the wrong end of a giant-killing from the tournament's surprise package – Greece. The result was met with disbelief by the home crowd.
When talking of Portugal greats even Figo and Ronaldo must take a back seat to Portugal's finest player of all time – Eusebio. A striker of incredible speed and power, it was Eusebio who inspired Portugal to their third-placed finish in the 1966 World Cup. He scored an incredible nine goals in that tournament, including four in the quarter-final against North Korea when Portugal came back from 3-0 down to win 5-3. Sadly it was Eusebio's only appearance in a major international tournament as Portugal failed to qualify for another showpiece until the European Championship in France in 1984.
Despite an absence of 18 years Portugal showed no rustiness in France. After progressing from a group that included Spain, West Germany and Romania it was only the hosts who stopped Portugal making it to the final. A thriller of a game stood at 1-1 after 90 minutes and when Portugal went ahead in the first-half of extra-time it looked like a place in the final was theirs, but two late French goals broke Portuguese hearts.
France were to become Portugal's bogey team, knocking them out at the semi-final stage of both Euro 2000 and the World Cup in 2006. The end of that campaign in Germany was also the end of Luis Figo's international career. Possibly the most recognisable member of the golden generation hung up his boots and it was time for the Portuguese to build again. Judging from what they have shown so far, there could be even better to come for Portugal fans.