This summer, the father figure to Portuguese football’s Golden Generation will go back to where it all started for him. Carlos Queiroz was born in Africa, more precisely in the former Portuguese colony of Mozambique, and 57 years later, that same continent will be the scene of the greatest challenge of his professional career. It is every coach’s dream to lead a team at the FIFA World Cup™ finals and after missing out on the chance in 2002, it will be Queiroz’s ambition to take Portugal where they have never gone before.
The year 1989 has gone down in the annals of Portuguese football history. For the first time, a Portugal team won a FIFA championship, emerging victorious at that year’s edition of the FIFA U-20 World Cup held in Saudi Arabia. The man at the helm was the very same Carlos Queiroz and, after turning Portuguese dreams into reality in 1989, he sent that proud footballing nation into ecstasy as his charges repeated the feat in front of their own fans two years later.
The mainstays of the 1991 team were Luis Figo, Rui Costa and Joao Pinto, and a memorable campaign culminated in a nail-biting penalty shoot-out win against Brazil in front of a frenzied crowd of more than 120,000 fans in Lisbon’s Stadium of Light.
Contrary to expectations, however, U-20 success was not readily translated to the senior side. Queiroz was elevated to the position of national coach in 1991 and under his guidance, the Portuguese failed to qualify for the UEFA European Championships in 1992 and the FIFA World Cup finals in 1994. The disillusioned Queiroz stepped down to take over at the Jose Alvalade stadium as the coach of Sporting Lisbon. He built a talented and attractive side, but success eluded him, apart from one Portuguese Cup.
Finally, he left his homeland for pastures new, firstly in the USA and subsequently in Japan, before returning to the international scene. After a season as coach of the United Arab Emirates, Queiroz took on the challenge of guiding South Africa to Korea/Japan 2002 but, after disagreements with the South African governing body, he resigned before the tournament started.
Two spells as Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant at Manchester United came either side of a stint at Real Madrid where he was coach during the era of Madrid’s famous galácticos. Finally, in 2008 after 14 years away, Queiroz returned home and was appointed national coach for the second time in his career, this time with a real chance of fulfilling his dream of taking his country to the FIFA World Cup.
The road to South Africa was hardly smooth, especially after an unlucky defeat at the hands of Denmark in the second qualifying match. Although a Selecção das Quinas received plaudits for a fine footballing display the collective confidence of the team was shaken, and Queiroz found himself faced with the delicate task for restoring a nation’s trust. But the coach never lost faith and bit by bit, he got the team back on track. This summer will see him back on African soil, but this time with one objective in mind: to take his country to the summit of world football.