Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Country before Club for Viana

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Country before Club for Viana

Article excerpt

Byline: By Simon Rushworth

Hugo Viana has revealed he is ready to miss the first fortnight of Newcastle's season in his quest to win Olympic gold with Portugal.

The United midfielder, still uncertain of his future at St James's Park, is fully focused on kickstarting his international career after failing to win a place at Euro 2004.

And Viana is desperate to represent his country in Athens during August ( even though participation could mean his absence from the Magpies' first four Premiership fixtures.

"It would be exciting to play in an Olympic Games and we've got the players capable of winning a medal," explained the Newcastle midfielder.

"Not many people get the opportunity to represent their country at the most famous sporting event in the world but that's what this year is all about for those of us who have missed out on the European Championships.

"I know I would be away at the start of the English season but I am not a regular in the Newcastle first team and it might be better for me to get match practice in Athens."

The leading three teams in this summer's European Under-21 Championships, which kicked off in Germany on Thursday, gain automatic Olympic qualification.

And Viana, in the Portuguese side which lost 3-1 to Sweden last night, would be one of the key players in a squad also likely to include Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo and unsettled Tottenham striker Helder Postiga.

"The Under-21 Championships are big news back home because everyone knows it's a chance for us to qualify for Athens," added Viana.

"The people in Portugal expect a lot from us in Germany. I think everyone is looking for a lift before Euro 2004.

"We have experienced players who are first team stars in Portugal and we have a point to prove after the 2002 tournament.

"That was the competition which earned me my move to Newcastle so I will always see it as a personal success. But as a team we didn't reach our potential.

"This time we can go all the way and qualifying for Athens will be an added bonus." Two years ago a posse of European scouts followed Portugal's new breed and Viana became the hottest young property in Europe. …

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