was gearing up for the Euro 2004 final against Greece amidst fervent hopes from
Portuguese fans that the hosts will go on to win their first-ever major football
Television and radio stations were planning
all-day coverage of preparations for the match, which gets underway Sunday at
7:45 p.m. (1845 GMT) at Lisbon's 65,000-seat Stadium of Light.
Police advised fans against going ahead with
plans to form a human chain along part of the route taken by the bus carrying
the national team to the stadium from their headquarters just outside Lisbon.
"If it does happen, the police will be on alert
and will do everything they can to ensure it takes place in safety, but we ask
that children not be brought along," Lisbon police spokeswoman Isabel Canelas
told TSF radio.
Many priests told daily tabloid 24Horas they
would include a prayer for the team when they lead mass on Sunday.
"The Portuguese people have needed to feel some
joy and this is something positive which football can do," said priest Carlos
Alberto who added he has ended his masses in second city Oporto in recent weeks
with "a few words" about the squad.
Interest in the evening match is so intense that
numerous cultural events were either canceled or rescheduled so as not to clash
with the football final.
Both Portugal and Greece have never won a major
football tournament before.
The Euro 2004 hosts were plunged into despair
after their 2-1 defeat to Greece in the tournament's opening match in Lisbon
three weeks ago.
But after that defeat Portugal's Brazilian coach
Luiz Felipe Scolari altered the team's line-up and the squad went on to defeat
Russia, Spain, England and the Netherlands to reach the final.
Now Portugal is eagerly awaiting the chance to
make up for its opening loss to Greece and win its first major title.
Sports daily A Bola summed up the mood of the
country on its front page.
"We want to be the champions of Europe," it
screamed above a photo of veteran midfielder Rui Costa who announced on Saturday
he would retire from international football once the tournament is over.
"It's Portugal's hour," said sports daily Record
on its front page while daily newspaper Diario de Noticias exclaimed "Everyone
"Portuguese football lives out today its most
important day. For the first time it is within reach of conquering a European
title," it added.
Chanting Greek fans are expected to swarm the
historic centre of Lisbon in the hours before the match, as they have ever since
their side defeated the Czech Republic 1-0 in extra time on Thursday to qualify
for the final.
Twenty-five flights from Athens are scheduled to
land at Lisbon's international airport on Sunday and police estimate some 25,000
Greek fans will be in the city for the match.