No South American has ever picked up a winner’s medal in the European Championships – but that will change on Sunday when either Marcos Senna tastes glory with Spain or Germany’s Kevin Kuranyi shares in a win for Die Mannschaft.
Both men, Brazilian-born, have brought a samba taste to the event, particularly Senna, who has been a mainstay of a swashbuckling Spanish team whereas Kuranyi has had to watch from the bench with Polish-born duo Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski on German goalscoring form.
Senna was outstanding in Spain’s 3-0 semi-final win over Russia as the holding midfield player effectively shackled Andrei Arshavin, who had lit up the tournament in his two previous outings but was rendered totally anonymous.
Such was the Spanish dominance that it seemed it was more than their unusual yellow ‘away’ shirts that Luis Aragones’ men had in common with the ‘auriverde’ of Brazil.
With the Brazilians currently limping along the World Cup road to South Africa 2010 Senna could wonder what might have been.
But having taken out Spanish nationality in early 2006 – in time for the last World Cup – he is now very much the great gain of Spain with his semi-showing and penalty conversion against Italy in the quarters.
Senna was born in Sao Paulo in 1976, while Germany’s Kuranyi hails from Petropolis in Rio de Janeiro state, born there in 1982.
Both men will therefore vie for the title of first Brazilian European champion in Sunday’s showdown in Vienna.
Many observers would have put their money on Portugal’s Brazil-born pairing of coach Luiz Felipe Scolari and midfielder Deco but the Germans ended their hopes in the quarters.
David Trezeguet of France but of Argentine origin did lift the title, scoring in the Euro 2000 final win over Italy – but he was actually born in the French city of Rouen.
Senna’s samba roots go deeper than those of Kuranyi – at least in footballing terms. He played for Rio Branco, America and Corinthians, with whom he won the World Club Championship in 2000, before spells with Juventude and Sao Caetano. He then joined Villarreal in 2001 and was La Liga runner-up in the season just ended.
Kuranyi qualified to play for the Germans on account of his German father of Hungarian origin while his mother is from Panama. He has joint German-Panamanian nationality.
He grew up in South America and came to Germany in his mid-teens, joining VfB Stuttgart in the Bundesliga in 2000 before moving on to Schalke three seasons ago.
Senna cannot wait for Sunday to come.
“It will be a really special match for me as no Brazilian has ever had the chance of playing in a Euro final. I hope I can make the most of this opportunity and win the title,” Senna told reporters.
His fine showings for Spain have sparked a surge of interest from Italian clubs – but Manchester United had also already noted his talent last year.
For now, however, he is concentrating only on Spain, having said before the semi-final that “I want to focus on the game against Russia, though I am happy to know Juventus are interested – they are a big name in world football.”
Aragones was in two minds initially about going with Senna or Xabi Alonso in the holding role having not called up one of his earlier favourites, David Albelda, after the latter was frozen out at Valencia by then coach Ronald Koeman.
The 31-year-old Senna came to Villarreal six years ago by chance as the club were scouting a striker at then club Sao Caetano. When the scouts saw him they snapped him up and at the last World Cup he became the first Brazilian to play for Spain at the event.
Kuranyi, despite 19 goals in the national shirt has yet to convince coach Joachim Loew that he should start in place of Klose and Podolski with Mario Gomez, a Spanish-German, also in the queue ahead of him.
Kuranyi played well at the 2005 Confederations Cup but then coach Jurgen Klinsmann dropped him for the 2006 World Cup despite good form in the qualifiers.
But even a place on the bench would see him beat Senna to the accolade of first South American European champion if the Germans can win the contest.
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