Portugal is in Group 3 of League A for the inaugural UEFA Nations League, alongside Italy and Poland. The winners of each group will advance to the semi-finals on 5-6 June, 2019. Third-place match and final will take place on 9 June.
Despite its modest size and wealth, relative to its neighbours, Portugal has punched far beyond its weight it footballing terms.
Much of that success could be attributed to its youth development system. Portugal’s recent success at the U19 European Championships was just the latest achievement.
Portugal have made six finals in the last eight years at youth level. In comparison, the country made only three finals in the previous decade in total.
In 2019, Helio Sousa (Pictured) will be at the helm when the country competes at next summer’s U20 World Cup, hoping to complete a hat-trick of titles.
But, development does not end at youth level. It goes beyond that. Winning titles is always a good thing but much depends on what happens to these players after the tournaments end, particularly at club level.
Overall, Portugal have won 12 times in 24 finals at youth level.
|2018||Italy||U19 Euro||Won 4-3 in extra time|
|2017||England||U19 Euro||Loss 1-2|
|2016||Spain||U17 Euro||Won 1-1, 5-4 in extra time|
|2015||Sweden||U21 Euro||Loss 0-0, 3-4 on penalties|
|2014||Germany||U19 Euro||Loss 0-1|
|2011||Brazil||U20 World Cup||Loss 2-3 in extra time|
|2003||Spain||U16 Euro||Won 2-1|
|2003||Italy||U19 Euro||Loss 0-2 in extra time|
|2000||Czech Republic||U16 Euro||Won 2-1 in extra time|
|1999||Italy||U18 Euro||Won 1-0|
|1997||France||U18 Euro||Loss 0-1 in extra time|
|1996||France||U16 Euro||Won 1-0|
|1995||Spain||U16 Euro||Won 2-0|
|1994||Germany||U18 Euro||Won 1-1, 4-1 on penalties|
|1994||Italy||U21 Euro||Loss 0-1 in extra time|
|1992||Turkey||U18 Euro||Loss 1-2 in extra time|
|1991||Brazil||U20 World Cup||Won 0-0, 4-2 on penalties|
|1990||Soviet Union||U18 Euro||Loss 0-0, 2-4 on penalties|
|1989||East Germany||U16 Euro||Won 4-1|
|1989||Nigeria||U20 World Cup||Won 2-0|
|1988||Spain||U16 Euro||Loss 0-0, 2-4 on penalties|
|1988||Soviet Union||U18 Euro||Loss 1-3 extra time|
|1971||England||U18 Euro||Loss 0-3|
|1961||Poland||U18 Euro||Won 4-0|
Portugal’s uncompromising style of play did not win them much admiration among neutral fans or the media but it was undoubtedly effective. Much credit should go to manager Fernando Santos who engineered a victory by utilizing the full strength of his squad. Football Factory rated each player on their performance over the entire tournament.
Rui Patricio He was not always busy but proved to be solid when called upon. He made a crucial stop in the penalty shootout against Poland. And he made several quality stops against France in the final. Named Best Goalkeeper at the tournament. Patricio is currently enjoying the best period of his career. 9
Eduardo Did not play.
Anthony Lopes Did not play.
Raphael Guerreiro He was probably Portugal’s most consistent outfield player. The French-born Guerreiro provided the cross for Cristiano Ronaldo’s header against Wales. He was deservedly named to the team of the tournament. 8
Eliseu He filled in for Guerreiro against Hungary and Poland. The Benfica left-back looked much improved in his defensive duties, although he did not offer much in attack. 6
Pepe The Real Madrid man began the tournament with a poor display against Iceland and Hungary in the group stage. However, he was near flawless in the knockout stages. A thigh injury kept him out of the semi-finals. But he returned in time to face France and put in a Man-of-the-Match performance for his country. Named to the Team of the Tournament. 8
Ricardo Carvalho The 38-year-old has been a solid contributor since returning to the international scene following Fernando Santos’ appointment. He looked slightly out of step especially in the 3-3 draw against Hungary. He was dropped in favour of Jose Fonte for the knockout stages. 6
Jose Fonte One of the great stories in this squad. The former Sporting CP academy graduate only made his international debut less than two years ago at the age of 30. He replaced Ricardo Carvalho against Croatia and was solid the rest of the way. 7
Bruno Alves He filled in admirably for the injured Pepe in the semi-final against Wales. 6
Cedric Soares Took over for Vieirinha against Croatia. His crucial mistake in the early stages against Poland led to the Robert Lewandowski goal. However, the Southampton right-back did not hang his head. Instead, he would be one of Portugal’s best performers the rest of the way. 7
Vieirinha The biggest disillusionment of this tournament for Portugal. He failed to provide sufficient cover on the Iceland goal in the first match. He was ineffective in attack and at times, a liability on defense. Santos rightly dropped him in favour of Cedric. 5
William Carvalho The holding midfielder replaced Danilo against Austria and put in an outstanding performance helping to drive the attack while supporting the Portuguese backline. Although he made less of an impact from then on, he still provided the stability the team needed. 7
Danilo Pereira The FC Porto midfielder suffered a back injury in the match against Iceland and lost his position in the starting XI to William. Although, he would make a valuable contribution as a substitute. He filled in for the Sporting midfielder as a starter in the semi-final against Wales and even came close to scoring on one occasion. 6
Renato Sanches Named Best Young Player in the tournament. His long run in extra time against Croatia led to Quaresma’s goal. He scored the tying goal against Poland. Although, he was less of a factor against Wales and in the final. Still, he only added to his burgeoning reputation. It will be almost impossible to top the year he has had. 7
Andre Gomes He earned a starting spot against Iceland and put in an excellent display, creating the goal scored by Nani. But, his injury against Croatia would greatly limit him. He made a positive substitute appearance against Wales but did not appear in the final. 6
Adrien Silva The Sporting captain made his debut in the tournament against Croatia. He earned Fernando Santos’ confidence with some impressive performances on the way to the final. Unselfish, hardworking and tough, he embodies Portugal’s championship-winning side more than anyone. 7
João Moutinho A starter at the beginning of the tournament, the Monaco midfielder was not at his best in the group stage. He was forced to withdraw at half-time against Hungary due to an injury. However, he came in as a late substitute against Poland and provided a dangerous through-ball to Ronaldo, who could not capitalize. He made a major impact as a substitute in the final, helping to create the winning goal. 7
João Mário Much was expected of the Sporting midfielder at the beginning of the tournament. He was noticeably quiet against Iceland and was dropped in favour of Quaresma in the second match. Back as a starter against Hungary he provided an assist on Cristiano Ronaldo’s back-heel goal. His decision-making left much to be desired at times in the knockout stages but he was much better in the final. 7
Cristiano Ronaldo The Portuguese captain was not always at his best in this tournament. He was a frustrated figure against Iceland and Austria but silenced his critics with a brace against Hungary. He was decisive again in the semi-final against Wales. His tournament seemed destined to end once again in tears when he was forced to withdraw in the final because of a knee injury. But, his teammates rallied around his absence and handed him that elusive championship at international level. 8
Nani The 29-year-old rebuilt his damaged reputation. He finished tied with the team-lead in goals with three and added an assist on Sanches’ goal against Poland. He did all that while playing out of position. His move to Spanish club Valencia was finalized during the tournament. 8
Ricardo Quaresma At 32, the journeyman winger looks to have finally come into his own on the international scene. He was generally ineffective in his only start of the tournament against Austria. However, he proved to be a valuable option off the bench, scoring a late goal against Croatia and then putting away the winning penalty in the shoot-out against Poland. 7
Rafa Silva He was originally expected to play a more prominent role. However, the Braga winger was limited to a short cameo in the late stages of the draw against Austria. He looked dangerous but was not able to break the deadlock. He is one for the future. Incomplete
Éder Just weeks ago at pre-tournament friendlies the striker was whistled at by Portuguese fans every time he touched the ball. He made short substitute appearances against Iceland and Austria before the final. In a tournament of ample drama and great storylines for Portugal, it seems almost fitting that ‘the ugly duckling’ would score the most famous goal in the country’s history. 7
Fernando Santos He will never earn style points from the mainstream media but the 61-year-old found a way to win. By preaching unity and sacrifice above all, Santos got the most out of his players. He seemed to know how to make changes at the right time. Bringing on Sanches early in the second-half against Croatia and Éder in the final, seemed insane at the time but paid off enormously. 10