The rearranged Euro 2020 creeps ever closer, with Europe’s strongest nations all facing off to be crowned as the kings of the continent. The Portuguese head into the tournament as champions, having beaten France in the final of Euro 2016 – but A Selecao should be considered as favourites heading into the tournament once again. Five years on from Eder’s extra-time winner, Portugal stakes a huge claim to retain their title – and here’s why.
The biggest weapon in the arsenal of the Portugal squad is of course Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ronaldo is generally considered as one of the greatest players in the world, but the Juventus forward has also proven to be clinical on the international stage. Not only is Ronaldo the second-highest scorer in international football history (103 goals), but he also has 10 goals in his last three appearances at major international tournaments.
The 36-year-old will be heading into the tournament having missed out on the Serie A title, so a serial winner such as himself will be desperate to claim the trophy this summer.
The Portugal squad is absolutely littered with players who exude a winning mentality, with the team claiming both the Euro’s and the Nations League, with their only hiccup coming at the World Cup. Players like Joao Cancelo, Bernardo Silva, Ruben Dias, Renato Sanches and Joao Felix all claimed league titles this season – but they’ll be desperate to add another medal to their 2020/21 haul.
On top of that, Fernando Santos is a master on the international stage having managed 132 international games for both Portugal and Greece, losing just 18 games. In addition to this, Santos has never failed to surpass the group stage in his five appearances at international tournaments.
Despite Cristiano Ronaldo being the focal point of the Portuguese team, he is by no means dragging deadweight behind in the tournament. Across the frontline, Portugal has an embarrassment of riches. Ronaldo and Joao Felix are the favourites to lead the line, but a hotly in-form Andre Silva and Diogo Jota will also be pleading a case to start.
On top of that, Portugal’s attacking midfielders are also two of the best in the world, with Manchester rivals Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva coming together. Portugal also has a selection of a large number of players from the Wolves squad, with Joao Moutinho and Ruben Neves offering a stable midfield.
But it doesn’t let up in the defence. Manchester City’s defence was impeccable this season, so far one half of it to be at the back for Portugal is a huge coup, with Rui Patricio minding the goal if they are somehow broken down.
Surviving the Group of Death
The biggest test for Portugal comes in the way of their incredibly difficult group, with the two former World Cup winners, France and Germany, accompanying Hungary in the group. Germany head into the tournament with the knowledge that this is manager Joachim Lowe’s final tournament which could potentially be an emotional weight on the shoulders of the German squad. The Germans have being struggling for form of recent, with a 6-0 loss to Spain punctuating a difficult run for Lowe’s side.
France causes the biggest threat to the Portuguese, with Les Bleus possessing an incredible squad that sailed to a World Cup just three years ago. France has also had Portugal’s number for some years now, with Portugal picking up just one win against France in their last 13 meetings. But crucially, that one win was the European Championship final. Portugal has shown that they can manage France out of a game with a team that was not nearly as talented as the one they currently possess, so there is no reason they can’t do it again.
If Portugal finish first they will face one of the third-place finishing sides, if they are to finish second they will face the winners of Group D – the winner of England’s group. The potential run for the Portuguese if they are to survive the group stages, which Fernando Santos has never failed to do, looks somewhat green.
Overall, Portugal has an incredibly strong squad full of winners that are lead by one of the biggest serial winners in the history of football. Although they face stiff competition in their group, Portugal still has a huge potential to go all the way in the Euro once again.