Can Portugal Recreate Their European Heroics?

Portugal comes to Russia with a perfect combination of veterans and young talent, led by none other than Cristiano Ronaldo.

History and Background 

Portugal won their first ever elusive international title last summer, which came at a very unexpected time given their squad was one of the weakest since the golden generation emerged in 2000. Especially defeating the hosts France in the final without Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal really punched above their weight to write a true underdog story.

A year later, the Iberian nation is set to go for another record as they will compete to win back-to-back international titles. With European teams generally failing to do well in this tournament, only winning three times since it started in 1992, Portugal will be there to help turn the record around in their debut.

Before striking gold last summer, Portugal was still considered among giants — just not put as an elite footballing power. They have had their share of decent success, such as making semi final appearances at 1966 and 2006 World Cups, and 1994, 2000, and 2012 European Championships. They were also so close to winning the Euro 2004, which they hosted in their own backyard but fell to an even more underdog side in Greece.

Nonetheless, they have finally found the success formula and will hope to retain it by returning home as the champions again this summer.

Coaching Overview

Fernando Santos has never been mentioned in the conversations about top coaches. Indeed, the former defender has not had much success coaching before he decided to pursue his career in international football. During his time in charge of various clubs, he was sacked by the likes of Benfica and Sporting Lisbon, while terminating his contract by mutual consent with Panathinaikos and PAOK. 

The only time he found silverware with a club was in his early coaching days with FC Porto, whom he won a double with in his debut season in 1999. However, the lack of success in next two seasons made the manager resign from his job.

Due to his poor record, it was understandable that the Portuguese public was far from being excited when he was chosen as the new manager of the national team in September of 2014. His resume did look decent in terms of international football by then, having led the Greece national team to a quarter stage in Euro 2012 and round of 16 in the 2014 World Cup. However, he was far from the likes of Luiz Felipe Scolari and Antonio Oliveira — the former high profile coaches of A Selecção. 

Nevertheless, he made himself the national hero after making his nation the European champions for the first time ever, and is prepared to keep the success going. The 62-year-old, who has a degree in electrical and telecommunications engineering, is blessed with a superior squad this summer compared to the last and will need to take full advantage of it. 

Current Squad

Like mentioned above, this summer’s Portugal squad looks a lot more exciting than the last. Up to eight changes were made from the European champions, with a few talented young prospects added to the squad. Benfica right-back Nelson Semedo and new AC Milan striker Andre Silva are among them, along with new Manchester City man Bernardo Silva [who only missed the Euro 2016 due to an injury] [http://www.dnaindia.com/sport/report-euro-2016-bernardo-silva-ruled-out-...

Eder, who scored the winning goal in the final against France, was omitted from the squad and it is understandable given his poor form at his club. The 29-year-old found the net only seven times in 37 appearances at Lille this past season, which is very poor return for a striker. 

Other noticeable omissions include the golden boy Renato Sanches from Bayern Munich, Inter Milan’s Joao Mario, Valencia’s Joao Cancelo, Benfica’s Rafa Silva and Ruben Neves, PSG’s Goncalo Guedes, and the new RB Leipzig acquisition Bruma. However, all these players apart from Mario will be participating in the European U-21 Championship, which is being held around the same time as the Confederations Cup. 

Despite all these absentees, A Selecção still boosts a tremendous amount of talent. Cristiano Ronaldo remains the key man fresh off of winning a double with Real Madrid, while other veterans such as Nani, Ricardo Quaresma, Joao Moutinho, Pepe, Bruno Alves, Jose Fonte, and Eliseu are expected to play a part and provide leadership.

With an addition of up and coming young talents such as Bernardo Silva, Andre Silva, Gelson Martins, William Carvalho, Raphael Guerreiro, and Cedric Soares — this is an extremely scary side for any team to face. They are capable of causing chaos at any tournament, and have to be considered as top favorites to win this one. 

Prediction

Portugal has to be feeling good about themselves, as they have only lost three games counting from the beginning of last June. Two of them came from friendlies, while A Selecção suffered a shock loss at the hands of Switzerland in a World Cup qualifier.

The loss made them second in their group behind the Swiss, but the Portuguese has already picked themselves up. They won all the six other qualifying games, outscoring opponents 22 to one. Among their wins include a complete 3-0 beat-down against Hungary, whom they only managed to draw in last year’s Euros. 

With the team catching rhythm in the last eight months, it is no surprise they are the top favorites going into this tournament. If they manage to keep their form, there is no reason why they can’t bring home another international trophy. 

Matches

6/18 — Portugal vs Mexico

6/21 — Portugal vs Russia

6/24 — Portugal vs New Zealand

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