Another accomplished Portuguese side retained their trophy on home soil, and looking at their team sheet some 12 years on, it is hardly a surprise. In midfield, Joao Pinto, Rui Costa and Luis Figo showed all the promise that makes them household names today. In defence, Emilio Peixe and Jorge Costa conceded just one goal throughout the whole tournament; while up front Carlos Queiroz's charges put away just enough of the myriad of chances that were created for them. After breezing through the first round with victories over Ireland Republic (2-0), Argentina (3-0) and Korea Republic (1-0), the second round proved more laborious: a 2-1 win over Mexico was only achieved after extra-time in the quarters, and the 1-0 win in the semis over the plucky Australians was as close as the scoreline suggests. The Final against Brazil was an equally nerve-wracking affair, and it took a penalty shoot-out to send the 127,000 home fans wild with delight.
The 1991 FIFA World Youth Championship in Portugal failed to throw up any major surprises. Rather it was the lacklustre and overly physical football produced by two of youth football's traditional powerhouses that lingers in the memory. Argentina and Uruguay both finished bottom of their groups with two losses and a draw, with the Uruguayans even getting on the wrong end of a 6-0 humiliation at the hands of Spain.
On a positive note, the Young Socceroos from Australia reached the semis where they were edged out (0-1) by eventual winners Portugal. Playing a highly adaptable 4-4-2 formation, the boys from Down Under impressed with their forays up the flanks, with their two full-backs producing up to 20 crosses per game. Equally enterprising, with a penchant for getting forward, was central defender Paul Okon. The Aussies came to Portugal well prepared and more than deserved their fourth-place finish.
Player of the Tournament:
In a Portuguese team brimming over with talent, it was defensive midfielder Emilio Manuel Delgado or "Peixe", who won the Player of the Tournament accolade. The tireless Sporting Lisbon star provided the vital link between the Iberians' defensive and offensive lines. His quick-thinking, tactical awareness and well-timed forays upfield made him the perfect foil for his creative midfield companion Rui Costa. Unlike many of his team-mates, however, "Peixe" never enjoyed great success at club level following the tournament. Differences with Sporting Lisbon saw him stop playing for a number of months and his spells at FC Porto and Benfica were ultimately disappointing.
Juan Esnaider (ARG), Mauricio Pocchettino (ARG), Mauricio Pellegrino (ARG), Mark Bosnich (AUS), Kevin Muscat (AUS), Paul Okon (AUS), Giovane Elber (BRA), Andy Cole (ENG), Capucho (POR), Jorge Costa (POR), Luis Figo (POR), Emilio Peixe (POR), Joao Pinto (POR), Rui Costa (POR), Ismael Urzaiz (ESP), Perez Munoz "Alfonso" (ESP), Patrik Andersson (SWE), Magnus Hedman (SWE), Dwight Yorke (TRI), Paulo Montero (URU), ...
Portugal 1991 stats:
82 (av.: 2.56)
Brazil, 14 goals
- Serguei Cherbakov (URS), 5 goals
- Ismael Urzaiz (ESP), Pedro Pineda (MEX), Giovane Elber (BRA), 4 goals
Braga, Faro, Guimaraes, Lisbon, Porto
731,500 (Final: 127,000)
Portugal are the only European nation to have won two FIFA World Youth Championships (1989 and 1991), and only the second nation from all continents to have done so (alongside Brazil).