Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Sports and Games

Football is the most known, loved and practiced sport. The legendary Eusébio is still a major symbol of Portuguese football history. Luís Figo was one of the world's top players of his generation, along other contemporary players like Rui Costa, Paulo Sousa, and Fernando Couto. Cristiano Ronaldo, Ricardo Quaresma, and Simão Sabrosa, are among the Portuguese-born most widely known top players currently active in professional football and the national football team.

The Portuguese national team, Selecção Nacional, has won two FIFA World Youth Championships and several other UEFA youth championships. After a third place in the 1966 FIFA World Cup, they finished in fourth place at the 2006 FIFA World Cup. In addition, they finished second in Euro 2004, their best result in this competition to date.

S.L. Benfica, Sporting Clube de Portugal, and F.C. Porto are the largest sports clubs, often known as "os três grandes" ("the big three"). In football, S.L. Benfica has played in the UEFA Champions League final (then the UEFA Champions Cup) seven times and has two titles, F.C. Porto also has two titles in that competition and a UEFA Cup. S.L. Benfica is the most popular club in Portugal with more than 160,000 affiliates and is recognised by the Guinness World Records as the club with more affiliates in the world. Sporting Clube de Portugal has won a European Cup Winners' Cup. Other than football, many Portuguese sports clubs, including the "the big three", compete in several other sports events with a varying level of success and popularity.
Vanessa Fernandes, World Cup winner in triathlon
Vanessa Fernandes, World Cup winner in triathlon

Portugal has a successful rink hockey team, with 15 world titles and 20 european titles, making it the country with more wins in both competitions. The most important Portuguese hockey clubs in the European championships are F.C. Porto, S.L. Benfica, and Óquei de Barcelos.

The national rugby union team have not yet qualified for a Rugby World Cup, but are very close to entering France 2007. The Portuguese national team of Rugby Sevens is also strong, becoming one of the strongest teams, proving their status as European champions.

Francis Obikwelu again won two European gold medals in the 100 m and the 200 m in 2006, having already received gold and silver medals in 2004 and a silver in the 2004 Summer Olympics. Naide Gomes is a European elite athlete in pentathlon and long jump.

In the triathlon, Vanessa Fernandes, three times European champion in elite sub-23, won the silver medal in the World Championships and became the winner of 2006's World Cup by winning 12 consecutive Grand Prix (world record tied).

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