Portugal has enjoyed some success on the international stage but they have yet to show that ability to do consistently well in order to be considered as greats. So why can’t Portugal deliver when it counts? Because they suck and won’t win anything and probably won't make it out of the group stages.
Portugal (Euro record: DNQ eight times, won once, finished second once, third twice, fourth once, qualified seven times)
Portugal has participated in seven Euros with them reaching the semi-finals on five occasions and that’s the limit of their prowess as a team. It’s still surprising how they managed to win the 2016 edition with Cristiano Ronaldo barking orders from the touchline. Their first foray into the tournament came in the 1984 edition where they, somehow, managed to reach the semi-finals. Fast forward to 2004, Finalists. In other words, second place! Finishing behind Greece who themselves didn't believe they won it and some still don't.
The score ended at 1-0 establishing a pattern of bottling if you ever followed their history. Whoever they had leading the line must have been so terrible that I’m finding it difficult to remember their names. Nuno Gomes, Pauleta? Ouch! If you were a Portugal fan, I’m sure losing to Greece was the last thing you expected, bottling when it mattered the most, when you had the chance to win a trophy. The same story applies at Euro 2008 where they managed to bottle it in the quarterfinals.
Os Navegadores was seen as major contenders due to their recent success, but their poor qualification record quickly brought them back down to earth. They eventually lost to Germany with an awful front line consisting of Helder Postiga?! Talking about the World Cup in 2010, Portugal got knocked out in the Round of 16, at the hands of Spain this time with them very very very lucky to even be participating in the tournament. Don't remember fans? Let me refresh your memories.
They “wormed their way in” through a controversial play-off system that paired Portugal against a very weak Bosnia and Herzegovina side. This time, Os Navegadores was so weak upfront that they had to “invent” a forward. This led to the nationalizing of an ageing Brazilian, Liedson, in an effort to resolve their scoring issues. Needless to say, it did not work and talking about the 2016 side, they drew most of their matches.
It wasn't until the semi-finals where they managed to defeat Wales, scoring twice, in a match that thankfully didn’t need the addition of extra time which is contrary to their other knockout matches.
The man leading the charge: Fernando Santos
Looks like we have another Maurizio Sarri on the touchline. If smoking and football ever went hand in hand, Santos would be dubbed as the “Sarri of Portugal”. But then again Sarri got sacked after leading Chelsea to the Europa League glory and a Champions League spot, so there is that. Can’t say the same for a head coach whose only experience is winning something as obsolete as the UEFA Nation’s League in its inaugural season. On second thoughts talking about pedigree in big stages does Santos have any?
Because let’s face it we all know whose managerial abilities won the Euro 2016 and it’s not Santos of course. Sure if you are ever feeling low or feel like you're lacking confidence, you can always turn towards the prodigal son of the nation. It’s safe to say Cristiano Ronaldo's brief managerial stint has been way better than Santos, leading Portugal to their first Euro glory since his takeover on that day.
In a TV interview with Portugal’s state broadcaster RTP last night, he said. “In our group, Portugal and France will be playing all their matches away. Hungary plays two at home and one away, and Germany plays all three at home. It’s not only happening in our group; it’s happening in all of them. In this group phase, which is always a very complicated stage, the home advantage might have a big influence. This affects the sporting integrity somewhat.”
Really Portugal fans? This is who you want as your manager? Ready with the excuses even before Portugal has got knocked out. Gotta do better than that. I mean I get it you've France, Germany and Hungary in the group. But isn’t it a bit early to throw in the towel?
“As contenders to win, if we don’t get through the group phase, it will be a failure. But I don’t believe that will happen to Portugal. This is an extremely tough group, and I don’t know why three such strong teams are in the same group; it’s difficult to fathom. I can’t remember ever seeing it before”. I mean at this point I feel sorry for Portugal that even Hungary’s presence has drained their willpower but for starters, I hope Portugal’s performance is better than Santos’s uninspiring press conferences.
Speaking to his managerial experience, after uninspiring stints with Benfica (sacked) and PAOK (do we even consider experience with Greek teams), he managed to get the job coaching the Greece National Team in 2010. In the 2014 Fifa World Cup, Greece reached the knockout stage for the first time ever which is great but what follows after that is not. Shortly before the start of the penalty shootout against Costa Rica, he was sent off for apparent dissent. They lost 3-5 in the process and the defeat marked the end of his tenure as his contract expired the very next day and additionally he was banned for eight matches. Talk about a dark past right? No wonder Ronaldo took control of the final.
Why your team will continue to suck:
The fact is Portugal has enjoyed some success in the past decade. It all began so brightly with their Golden Generation and boy what a Golden gen it was. Figo, Rui Costa, Joao Pinto and co, so calling this star-studded is an understatement. But they were rampant and stomped on teams like England, Holland, and Spain at their best. But when it came down to the moment of truth, Portugal failed to live up to it. Their Achilles’s heel is its lack of size and strength.
Look at it this way, if you put together an imaginary team full of Nanis and you have the Portugese national side. Yeah, you might be asking but “WE HAVE CRISTIANO RONALDO DO YOU?” Okay first of all credits to Portugal for lifting the trophy without Ronaldo because that was downright impressive. Ronaldo could never inspire the Portuguese time as Eusebio did with him popularly dubbed as “The Black Panther” he single-handedly carried Portugal on his back in the World Cup in 1966.
A Eusebio-inspired Portugal side defeated Brazil in ’66 through two goals from the man himself. Some might call him (Ronaldo) the modern-day Eusebio but he just doesn’t make the cut. The cockiness and arrogance, he’s been caught spitting toward television cameras after suffering a humiliating defeat. That’s what happens when you want an entire team to be built around you. Their defence is 30 plus and their midfield is average at best, even if that is harsh.
Look at Jose Fonte, Pepe and Cristiano Ronaldo, it feels like we're watching an All-star match for Soccer-Aid going on with football's whose who's all playing. Their second-best player, Renato Sanches comes alive during international tournaments only because he was reported missing in Bayern Munich and Swansea after being adjudged the best young player in the 2016 Euros. Diego Jota has had an electric start to life in Liverpool but injuries have kept him on the sideline for most of the season and Joao Felix is yet to live up to the hype as the “next Ronaldo’.
Looks like their only option is to rely on Bruno Fernades also famously dubbed as the “Penandes” especially since open play goals have eluded Ronaldo and his free-kicks have killed a few fans (they haven't but it's a matter of time). Ronaldo’s league output has dropped and that’s established by the fact that Fabio Quagliarella has managed to outscore him at 38 and yes we know that was a few years ago but still, it applies.
What can give you hope:
Portugal had great players in the current squad who have done quite well in their respective leagues. The individual characteristics of these players are substantially different and unique. Bruno Fernandes has been in top form scoring and assisting at will, while both Joao Cancelo and Ruben Dias have been part of a successful system at Manchester City and they are hoped to recreate that form for Portugal as well.
Rui Patricio has been rock solid, so to speak and talking about an ageing defender Jose Fonte might be old but he won the league in France despite having been written off. Sanchez has been decent but when it comes to Portugal he switches up. Essentially, they've been one of the most dominant sides on the continent over the past five years as they prepare to defend their crown at Euro 2020 with what many have called the the perfect blend of experience and youth.
Combine that with a reliable defensive unit, excellent holding midfielders and an Andre Silva who stunned the planet with 29 goals for Eintracht Frankfurt last season. Having matured into a reliable finisher and it'll be exciting to see how effective he will be alongside Ronaldo. Safe to say Fernando Santos might have a selection headache owing to Portugal’s brimming attacking department so most of Portugal’s performance depends on getting the selection right.