Any hopes England,
France, Spain and Portugal had that Real Madrid's form slump
would not be reflected by their star turns at Euro 2004 has been
brutally shattered during the tournament.
The Four Musketeers'
motto was 'one for all and all for one' and that still stands
for the Real Madrid version as Raul, Zinedine Zidane and David
Beckham will all be sitting at home cheering on their last
teammate standing - Luis Figo.
However he too
could be sitting watching from the subs' bench as Portugal aim
to set aside years of under-achievement by landing the trophy in
their own backyard.
While Figo did a
modern-day version of Achilles sulking in the dressing room
after being substituted, Beckham was missing the first of the
penalties in the shootout defeat to Portugal that was to prove
to be another false dawn for English trophy hopes.
How Beckham must
have wished for a miracle to be worked by the 'Our Lady of
Fatima' icon that Figo was holding at that very moment,
representing the shrine in Portugal where the Virgin Mary is
said to have appeared to three shepherd children in 1917.
Spain captain Raul
departed even earlier as his shooting powers drew blanks and
coach Inaki Saez lost his job, partly because he couldn't bring
himself to drop the Real Madrid great.
Beckham face such a humiliation as was visited on Figo on
Thursday - at least as long as Sven-Goran Eriksson is in charge.
"Yes" said the
Swede without a moment's hesitation when asked if Beckham would
Whether Figo gets
another chance under Luiz Felipe Scolari after his fit of
Dutch-style petulance is open to question.
Allied to Figo's
comment that Brazilian-born Deco shouldn't play for Portugal
because he wouldn't have the same level of commitment - which
must have gone down well with 'Big Phil' who is himself
Brazilian - he, like previous captain Fernando Couto, may have
to watch from the sidelines.
As for Zidane his
peerless gifts were largely absent throughout the tournament,
apart from the two minutes of hell he imposed on England in the
opening match when he showed Beckham how to take a penalty
successfully after the England skipper had seen his brilliantly
saved by Fabien Barthez.
A peripheral figure
throughout the 1-0 defeat by Greece, 32-year-old Zidane may at
last be showing the effects of long years of service to club and
country at the highest level.
Raul blamed his
lack of goals on 'fate', Beckham his penalty miss on a dodgy
clump of earth that adorned the penalty spot, and Figo his
removal on a sense of injustice. Zidane simply said that the
team didn't get out of first gear.
"Is this the end of
an era? We'll have to see," was Zidane's response when asked
whether the glorious core of the French team would soon be a
thing of the past.
To the majority of
viewers and spectators it must have seemed that the end is nigh
for four players who are footballing icons in their respective