Conceicao - from hero to forgotten man
Fame in football can be a short-lived affair as Sergio Conceicao was to discover after the 2000 European Championship.
Conceicao was a hero in Portugal when he scored all three goals in a 3-0 victory over Germany in Rotterdam to send the Germans out of Uefa Euro 2000™ played in the Netherlands and Belgium.
The defeat by what was virtually a reserve Portugal side, which had already qualified from the group, marked one opf the lowest points in Germany's international fortunes and led to a shake-up of the German national team.
In Lisbon, fans and media still talk proudly of the victory, but but Conceicao soon found himself out of the limelight.
"I never achieved the recognition I deserved as a player," the former winger, now 37, said.
Memories of the evening at De Kuip stadium when Conceicao put the ball past Oliver Kahn in goal in the 35th, 54th and 71st minutes have been revived ahead of Portugal's Euro 2012 meeting with Germany on Saturday in Lviv, Ukraine.
"It was fantastic, historic," Conceicao recalled of the match against a Germany side featuring Lothar Matthaeus and Michael Ballack.
"We humiliated Germany, the whole of Portugal was enchanted," he said.
Conceicao is not alone in believing the Portugal side at the 2000 tournament was the best in the nation's history, featuring a golden generation of the likes of Luis Figo, Fernando Couto and Rui Costa.
"As a group, as team we were then better than the 1966 team with Eusebio, better than the team which were runners-up in 2004 and better than the present team with Cristiano Ronaldo," Conceicao said.
Under then coach Humberto Coelho, now federation president, the team "did not only win but put on a real show."
Portugal were unlucky to go out in 2000 in the semifinals against France on a golden goal penalty scored in extra-time.
Following Euro 2000, Conceicao played another 20 games for Portugal, but after 56 caps and 12 goals he was dropped in 2003 by then new coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.
He never forgave the Brazilian. "He never gave me a reason for the decision," Conceicao said, and believes it was for commercial reasons, preferring players who had contracts with a certain sports good supplier (Nike).
Conceicao was never a player to mince his words. The fact that he never became a star despite his power, speed and dribbling skills was
maybe down to personality. "His game is as explosive as his character," a commentator once said.
The son of poor parents, who had to fight hard for his achievements, was often at loggerheads with journalists, fans and officials. He once rubbed his shirt in a referee's face.
When a journalist asked him a few years ago if he were "the Eric Cantona of Portugal" - a reference to France's enfant terrible - he replied, "No I am probably worse. I was always honest, straightforward and impulsive, I was never regarded as likeable."
In his club career, Concaicao was a multiple league winner with Porto and Serie A side Lazio, where he also won the European Cup Winners' Cup and Supercup in 1999.
After 2003 though he was very much a forgotten man, moving from Inter Milan back for short spells to Lazio and Porto, then on to Belgium (Standard Liege), Kuwait (Al-Qadsia) and Greece (PAOK Saloniki) before retiring virtually unnoticed in 2009.
Now he has the chance on the coaching bench of achieving the recognition he felt he never had as a player. He was in charge of Standard Liege in 2010 and 2011 before being hired in January by Portuguese provincial side SC Olhanense, taking them to eighth in the first division.
That has attracted the attentions of other clubs, with Sporting Braga showing an interest.
First though comes Euro 2012, where Conceicao will be taking a particularly close look in particular against Portugal's opening game against Germany.
Portugal cannot be counted as one of the top favourites, particular as they are in a tough group also featuring the Netherlands and Denmark, he believes.
"You can't expect the title from Portugal. There are good individual players but we are not as good this time as a team," he said, before adding in what could be taken as a warning for Germany, "Against strong opponents they can excel themselves."