Portugal

Portugal

  • Capital: Lisbon / Lisboa
  • Official Languages: Portuguese
  • Nicknames: A Seleção (The Selection); Os Navegadores (The Navigators); A Seleção das Quinas (women’s team)
  • Association: Federação Portuguesa de Futebol (FPF)
  • FIFA Code: POR

Records

  • Best World Cup Result (Men): Third Place (1966)
  • Best World Cup Result (Women): Not Qualified
  • Best Euros Result (Men): WINNERS (2016)
  • Best Euros Result (Women): Group Stage (2017)
  • Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 3rd (Various)
  • Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 30th (March 2019, December 2020)
  • Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 43rd (August 1998)
  • Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 47th (March 2007)
  • Most Capped Player: Cristiano Ronaldo – 170 caps [as of Jan 2021]
  • Top Scorer: Cristiano Ronaldo – 102 goals [as of Jan 2021]

The Portuguese Republic or Portugal is located on the western side of the Iberian peninsula on Europe’s western outskirts, although they are currently at the forefront of European football. Portugal are the defending European champions having won their first major tournament in 2016 by beating the hosts, France, 1-0 in Paris. They are also the initial and defending UEFA Nations League champions when they won the inaugural playoff phase in 2019 by beating the Netherlands 1-0 in the final. However Portugal’s footballing success has only been recent with the majority of the national team’s fortunes not being successful and relatively underachieving. Their first golden era came in the mid-1960s with the success of Benfica in European competitions and the rise of such players like Eusébio. It allowed them to qualify for their first ever World Cup in 1966 where they impressed everyone by finishing in third place (albeit suffering a scare against North Korea on the way). However that would be their only appearance in any major tournament until the 1984 European Championships, when they reached the semi-finals of that, and followed it up with qualification for the 1986 World Cup. Alas despite the excellent talent that was being produced in the country, they were still underperforming internationally.

It wouldn’t be until the mid-1990s when the fortunes of Portugal improved for the better with the progression of a golden generation of players that finally allowed the country to become regular qualifiers for European Championships and World Cups. Certainly the apex of that initial golden generation, with such players like Luís Figo, Rui Costa, Paulo Sousa, Fernando Couto et al, was in the early 2000s when reached the semi-finals in the 2000 Euros before hosting the following 2004 Euros. They were favourites to finally win their first international trophy, especially as they progressed to the final in their own tournament, but were agonisingly stunned in the showpiece game by a meticulous Greece side. This heartbreak was followed with a fourth-place finish in the following 2006 World Cup though – to date the seleção‘s best finish since 1966. With many of the golden generation retiring, it looked as if Portugal’s chances of winning a tournament were decreasing, but inspired by the genius of Cristiano Ronaldo (one of the greatest ever players of all time) they finally overcame their hoodoo by suprisingly claiming the 2016 European Champions and finally putting to bed the agony of 2004. In their history, Portugal have never done worse than reaching the quarter-finals of every European Championships they have competed in.

Talking about the defending European and UEFA Nations League champions, and one of the best teams in international football who is captained and spearheaded by one of the greatest players of all time in Cristiano Ronaldo, is Próxima Jornada. It is an absolutely superb website and Twitter account that discusses all things involving Portuguese football in the English language. As well as providing analysis, opinions, interviews and more, they have also recently started a regular podcast which should certainly be listened to also! To find their website, social media accounts and new podcast, follow the links below:

To answer questions on A Seleção das Quinas and the Portuguese women’s national team, we also interviewed the very knowledgeable Oliver Thomas. Oliver is a freelance writer and football enthusiast who has written many excellent articles for the likes of Próxima Jornada as well as other websites. To find their social media accounts, follow the links below:

Key: PJ = Próxima Jornada; OT = Oliver Thomas

Q. Who would you say is your country’s best player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?

Cristiano Ronaldo

PJ: There has been so many brilliant players over the years, Ballon d’Or winners from the great Eusébio, to the brilliant Luís Figo, but for me there can only be one and that’s Cristiano Ronaldo. I wasn’t around when Eusébio was playing, I’ve heard so many stories and watched clips of his magnificence for both Benfica and Portugal but Cristiano I have watched first-hand since he was a skinny teenager and saw him develop into the player he is today.

I think he elevated Portugal to another level. He hasn’t always played within the best generation of players either, the original Golden Generation was arguably better man-for-man than the Euro 2016 winning side, but that side didn’t have a player like Ronaldo.

A phenom, a world beater, an icon, a legend.

OT: Manager
In my opinion, Francisco Neto, the current manager of the Seleção das Quinas, should be considered the best-ever manager. Under his tenure, Portugal has risen from 42nd in the world to the 30th in the FIFA world rankings. The team qualified for its first major competition in 2017, appearing at the European Championships, although the team came last in their group, thus exiting the tournament at this stage. Most impressively, they finished 3rd in the Algarve Cup, but there will be more about that later.

Carla Couto

Player
Firstly, an honourable mention should go to record goalscorer Edite Fernandes who retired in 2017. However, Carla Couto, the retired striker, defined a generation. She won 11 league titles at 11° de Dezembro and has played professionally in Serie A at Lazio, but unfortunately, the team suffered relegation in her only season there. Couto is the most capped player for the Seleçao Feminina showcasing the longevity of her ability. Only Cristiano Ronaldo, 170, has had more caps than her 145 appearances between 1993 and 2012. Upon retiring, praise was heaped on Couto, particularly by Monica Jorge, Head of Women’s Football in Portugal. She waxed lyrical about the striker and said “I don’t think they will be another Carla Couto. What Marta is for Brazil is what Couto is for Portugal“. Couto now works for Monica Jorge as an ambassador for the national team and its players.

Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of the national team both in the past and present?

Ricardo Quaresma

PJ: A cult hero would be somebody like Ricardo Quaresma. Such a fascinating player, you can’t take your eyes off him when he’s on the ball, and even today he is dropping jaws with his skills at Vitória. He perhaps didn’t go on to have the career many thought he would but Quaresma is one in a million. A true maverick of the game, the trivela, the rabona, the stepover, he has mastered it all. Genuinely one of my favourite footballers of all time, regardless of nationality.

Q. Of the current team, who would you say is the best player from Portugal currently?

Bruno Fernandes

PJ: It’s a tough one, Cristiano is the obvious choice. The captain, the goalscorer and the talisman. Bruno Fernandes is continuing to blow the English Premier League away, winning the EPL’s Player of the Month award seemingly every month! It’s yet to be seen if he can truly arrive on the national stage with the seleção but on his day he’s devastating. Bernardo Silva is another, he’s been relatively quiet in the past year with manager Pep Guardiola describing him as “exhausted”, he looks like he’s getting back in the groove which is great because when he’s at full flow, there aren’t many better around.

Cláudia Neto

OT: Cláudia Neto is and has been the stand-out player Portuguese player for a few seasons. The midfielder is currently applying her trade in Florence for Fiorentina. In 2018, she won the best player of the tournament at the Algarve Cup. Thanks to her eye-catching displays, Neto secured a move to Wolfsburg. Although it didn’t work out quite as she would have liked, playing in a world-class squad showcases her excellent ability. She will be hoping to prove that they were wrong to let her go. Unfortunately for her, Fiorentina has been eliminated from this season’s Women’s Champions League by Man City and currently sit in 5th position in Serie A.

Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the national team?

OT: Very positive, as you can read in my article, the state of football is on the up. There are more fans in the stadiums, the national team is competing more than it has in the past, and the league is becoming more competitive.

PJ: Very, very good. They go into the 2020/21 European Championships as the defending champions and are looking ahead to the 2022 World Cup. With so much talent coming through, it’s a very exciting time to be a seleção fan.

Q. Are there any Portuguese players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?

João Félix

PJ: João Félix is a wonderful footballer and we saw in the early part of this season just what he can do. He’s suffered with niggling injuries at Atlético Madrid but this season looks more comfortable. As for the less established names, Nuno Mendes of Sporting is one to watch, the 18-year-old is a brilliant full-back.

Q. Looking at Portugal’s international history, what would you say has been the best game, result or performance for the national team in your opinion?

OT: In recent history, there have been numerous high points like qualifying for the 2017 European Championships. But finishing 3rd in the Algarve Cup is a fantastic achievement. The Algarve Cup is an annual invitational competition hosted in the Algarve, Portugal. The tournament hosts 12 teams, who are divided into three groups and play in a round-robin. Teams are then ranked based on the points they achieved and split into one-off matches to determine their place. Starting the competition as the lowest-ranked team (ranked 38th in the world by FIFA) Portugal defied the odds. They beat Australia 2-1 in the 3rd place playoff match. Before the cup, the Aussies were ranked 4th in the world, the highest in the competition.

PJ: The Euro 2016 final. Not the best game in terms of how Portugal played but by far the most significant. Taking the host country, and favourites, France to extra time and then beating them with courtesy of that Éder goal. Nobody gave Fernando Santos and his men a chance that day but they never gave up.

Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?

PJ: Personally the Euro 2004 final versus Greece still hurts. Although it was rectified partially through 2016 victory, it still hurts that that team didn’t win any silverware together. Figo, Rui Costa, Ricardo Carvalho, Deco, Ronaldo I could go on. A magnificent side but Greece had a plan and executed it. Again I reiterate, it still hurts even now!

OT: After not appearing in so many competitions on the world stage, there have been many low points. However, after the dizzy heights of qualifying for the European Championships and coming 3rd in the Algarve Cup, it was a disappointment to see the side miss out on the world’s biggest stage, the 2019 World Cup.

Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the Portuguese national team?

PJ: The best thing is watching the players that you spend so much time watching, analysing and supporting for their clubs come together with one common goal, to do Portugal proud. As far as the worst thing? Facing defeat!

Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?

PJ: I love the traditional songs! ‘A Portuguesa‘, which is the national anthem is belted out by supporters and players before the match. It’s special to me personally also because it was the first song in Portuguese I knew all the words to!

OT: During the male European Championships in 2016, the Portuguese fans celebrated each victory with a rendition of “a minha casinha“. The song sung by Xutos & Pontapeés in 1988, is extremely popular and often played at stadia and carnivals. The song is about being proud of Portugal. When success comes, fans will be chanting this song around the country.

Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the national team?

The Euro 2004 home shirt

OT: The first Portugal kit I can remember is from the male World Cup in 2006; I have memories of the Golden Generation crashing out to Portugal. However, I think the current kit has an incredible design and will be one of my favourites if the team qualifies via the playoffs for next summer’s European Championships, in England.

PJ: The Euro 2004 home shirt. The circular numbers on the front, the badge being slightly off centre, the yellow Nike swoosh in the corner. That whole Total90 era was just spectacular.

Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the Portuguese national team?

PJ: To win the World Cup! It’s something Portugal has never done, coming close in 1966 [lost in the semi-finals 1-2 to England] but after conquering the UEFA European Championships and then the UEFA Nations League, there’s never been a better chance for Portugal to win the World Cup!

OT: My short term hope is that the team qualify for the 2021/22 European Championships; they are playing Russia in a playoff match on the 9th and 13th of April. In the long run, I would like to see the national team play at a World Cup, in recent years performances have improved and the national team is becoming more and more competitive.

A massive muito obrigado to Aaron and Olly from Próxima Jornada for answering our questions on the seleção and seleção das quinas respectively. Remember you can find their social media accounts in the links at the top of the blogpage.

If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at the94thmin@gmail.com or send a message at @The94thMin on Twitter.

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