EURO 2020 PREVIEW: Portugal

Despite having won the last edition, and boasting an impressive talent pool, Portugal will not go into Euro 2020 as one of the favourites. But, that is a position that has always suited the small nation. Last time, A Seleção went into the tournament in a similar position and came out victorious.

This year’s tournament, coming five years after the previous one, with a pandemic in between, will be hosted in 11 cities across 11 countries in Europe. Portugal are in the so-called Group of Death with traditional heavyweights Germany and France, as well as well-coached, and tough Hungary side.

11 out of 26 players on this squad were on the squad that beat France on a memorable night in Paris. They still have their indominable captain in Cristiano Ronaldo. At 36, he still remains a force to be reckoned with. Decline or not, he still led Serie A with 29 goals this past season. Pepe, João Moutinho, Renato Sanches, Raphael Guerreiro, José Fonte, William Carvalho and Danilo Pereira, who all played major roles in the victory, also return.

In attack, Portugal are also stacked with plenty young, emerging talents who will be counted on to carry the torch forward. André Silva was second in scoring in the Bundesliga this season with 28 goals. Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes scored 18 goals in the Premier League and was second in assists. Not to mention, Bernardo Silva who missed out five years ago due to an injury.

Rui Patrício will once again be in goal. Santos will have several good options to pick from in the middle. At the back is where there is some concern. Santos decided to call only three centre-backs and age is a concern, with Pepe and Fonte now into their late 30s. However, both are coming off good seasons.

Schedule

Portugal were drawn into Group F, with the likes of world champions France, also Germany and Hungary. Germany’s recent results have many people doubting the squad, with defeats to Spain and North Macedonia. Still, the last World Cup aside, Germany always seems to show up for tournaments. This will be Joachim Löw’s final tournament, who has coached the squad since July 2006. Hungary beat Bulgaria in a playoff to complete the group. And, they are not to be taken lightly either.

Formation

Portugal has typically played a 4x4x2 under Fernando Santos, with full-backs and wingers overlapping one another. Pepe-Dias are expected to form the foundation of the backline. In the middle, is anybody’s guess. Santos has always liked to mix things up according to the match and situation. Bernardo Silva and Bruno Fernandes are expected to play major roles. They will be key to Portugal’s success. Cristiano Ronaldo and Diogo Jota should play up front together with André Silva, Guedes and João Félix battling it out for playing time.

Players to Watch

Rúben Dias: The Manchester City defender is coming off an almost perfect debut season in the Premier League where he helped his side to the league title. Big, strong and blessed with natural leadership capabilities, Dias will need to be at his best if Portugal are to go far.

Diogo Jota: Another Premier League player who is coming off an excellent first season with his club. Jota seemed to be scoring for fun at times, with the highlight being a hat-trick against Atalanta in the Champions League. He has also had a fast start with the national team and is the odds-on favourite to partner Ronaldo up front.

João Félix: The 21-year-old is yet to really justify his big money move to Atletico Madrid two summers ago, but EURO 2020 is as good a stage as any to prove his critics wrong. He played only a peripheral role in his club’s La Liga-winning season, while battling some injuries that limited him.

Diogo Jota in his familiar pose

Manager

‘O Engenheiro,’ nicknamed for his training as an engineer following the end of his playing career. The 66-year-old Santos was hired in 2014 and engineered the Euro 2016 victory, as well as the inaugural Nations League in 2019. A somewhat lackluster end to qualifying for this tournament, and start to qualifying for Qatar 2022, had some fans doubting whether he should still be the man. Can he once again take a talented group of individuals and make them into a winning team?

There is a difference from 2016. The great powers of football used to look at Portugal as dangerous but they didn’t think we could win. They now look at us as contenders.

Fernando Santos

Squad

Fernando Santos chose the maximum 26 players for the tournament. Pedro Gonçalves was the only outfield player selected not capped at senior level. He led the Portuguese league in scoring with 23 goals. Nine players won league titles with their clubs this past season. There are 11 returning players from the championship-winning side from 2016.

Article written by Rui Martins. Graphics created by Rui Martins. Photos are from FPF.

EURO 2016: Complete tournament player ratings for Portugal

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.

Goalkeepers

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.

Defenders

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

Midfielders

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

Forwards

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

Manager

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

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