Nuno Gomes: Find that one chance, and be ready
A finisher of the highest quality, Nuno Gomes was one of the most prolific forwards of his generation for both club and country. With a career spanning close to two decades, he won everything in the Portuguese club scene with boyhood club Benfica and was one of a handful of strikers to have scored in three consecutive European Championship finals.
In his first ever visit to Singapore for the Tiger Street Football tournament at the invitation of former international colleague and tournament ambassador Deco, the 38-year-old retired player shared with FourFourTwo the factors that made him tick as one of the most feared forwards in the game.
Was there any player you looked up to when you were growing up?
Marco van Basten. He was a very good scorer and a top player. I was impressed all the time whenever I saw him play. He scored plenty of goals and had excellent technique and awesome finishing.
What was the best goal you have ever scored in your career?
If I had to choose, it would be the goal against France (in the semi-finals of Euro 2000). I also thought the goals I scored against England (the match winner in the opening group match of Euro 2000) and Spain (the only goal of the game in Euro 2004).
From your experience, what are the key attributes a striker should possess to succeed on the pitch?
As a striker, it is always important to try and find your own free space to be able to score. It is always a challenge especially when you have a tight marking defence. It helps if you have players behind like Deco, Rui Costa and Luis Figo because such players will find and create plenty of goalscoring opportunities.
You will need to concentrate and stay focused. Sometimes during the 90 minutes (or the entire duration of the game), you only have one chance and you don’t want to miss that chance. You need to try and find that chance. Sometimes it comes in a matter of seconds and you have to be ready for that.
With age, you have more experience. When you are young, you want to run to get and hold the ball. At times, you end up wasting energy and not being at the place you need to be. With the experience gained, you improve your situational play and learn more about the game. You will learn to decide when to time your runs and where the best position is to be on the pitch.
How were you able to rise to the occasion where it mattered, such as in major European and World Cup finals?
I worked hard every time. For me, whether we were playing Germany or Albania, it is the same. I was always concentrating to do my best. I knew I had to be ready when I had my chances to score in the national team.
It helped that I had that luck to play with good players (Deco, Costa, Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo) who delivered a lot of good opportunities and I was ready when they came. I was trying to be as professional as I could to play, and I was always very lucky to score.
The toughest defender you have played against?
Fabio Cannavaro and Alessandro Nesta, they were very good defenders. But at club level, it has to be Jorge Costa (of Porto). He was very strong and difficult to beat. He could anticipate moves and was a tough tackler.