It was an evening tinged with sadness for Luiz Felipe Scolari, his five-and-a-half-year reign as Portuguese coach ending in defeat. The Brazilian had seemed destined to guide the highly fancied Portuguese to UEFA EURO 2008 glory, but once again they came up short at a major tournament, bowing out with a 3-2 quarter-final defeat against a fiercely resolute Germany.

"I'm frustrated right now," says Scolari. "We didn't fulfil our potential." The Seleção das Quinas lost to Greece in the final of EURO 2004 and went out to France in the semi-final of the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™. This time the Portuguese stars were expecting a semi-final appearance and quietly hoping for much more." It's a sad day for us," added Nani. "We had high hopes of making the final in Vienna and winning the tournament. We were really motivated and wanted to give Scolari a good send-off."

A poor start
After convincing performances in the group matches, Portugal looked a good bet for a place in the final. But once again it was the Germans who put in a strong performance when it mattered most. Two early goals from Germany at St. Jakob Park in Basel meant it was always going to be a struggle for the slow-starting Portuguese. "We had a terrible start," said Nuno Gomez. "We shipped two early goals and it was a while before Moutinho had our first chance."

The Lusitanians were caught cold by Schweinsteiger's excellent conversion of Lukas Podolski's cross on 22 minutes. Just four minutes later Miroslav Klose got on the end of Schweinsteiger's free kick to make it 2-0. The killer blow came when Ballack scored a carbon copy of Germany's second goal to make it 3-1.

More of the play
"Scolari warned us the Germans were dangerous from set-pieces," admitted a downcast Cristiano Ronaldo. "We thought we were prepared for that threat, but we just didn't defend well on the night. I think that's the main reason we lost, because we played the better football."

The Portuguese superstar himself made little impact. There was a flash of genius as he set up Nuno Gomez's goal to make it 2-1 and bring Portugal back into contention. "It was important for us to get that goal before half time," said Nuno Gomez. "We were sure we could get the equaliser and spoke about it at half time, but then we conceded another goal from a set-piece and it left us with too much to do."

Portuguese love affair ends
Portugal's goal-scoring substitute Helder Postiga was honest in his assessment of the defeat. "If you make those mistakes at this level, you pay the price and there's no way back," he said. His 87th-minute strike was too little, too late and even four minutes of stoppage time could not save Portugal, as the German defence held firm. And there were some words of praise from the disappointed Ronaldo: "Germany has some fantastic players and they showed that they are one of the tournament's best teams. I would see them as favourites now," he said.

Portuguese heads were down as they left the pitch, and Scolari himself sees the end of an era. "Right now, I feel empty inside," he said. "Maybe it'll hit me tomorrow how many friends I have made in Portugal and how welcome I was made to feel there. I have developed a lot of love and admiration for the Portuguese people," said the Chelsea-bound Brazilian. "A part of me will always be in Portugal. Maybe I'll go back one day."