Exploring Portugal’s chances in Euro 2020
When you think of the Portuguese national team, it’s hard not to think of Cristiano Ronaldo. The 35 year old has had an exceptional career, putting him in talks for one of the best footballers to ever grace the pitch. Unfortunately, his Portugal side had left much to be desired in the past international competitions until recent events, starting off with the EURO 2016 competition.
One large criticism of the Portuguese national team in past years is their lack of balance throughout the side, having to play a pragmatic style of football to cover up their defensive deficiencies. This style took away from their key attackers such as Nani, Ronaldo and Quaresma. Many pundits have sympathised with CR7 for his nation’s inability to win a national trophy. In decades prior, we have seen some serious players rock the dark red colours of the Portugal jersey such as Deco, Figo, Pepe, Nani, Quaresma and Ronaldo of course. Yet the nation had not seen an international achievement since a silver runners up medal in the 2004 European championships. This was a shocking return for such a talented footballing nation and things had to change, as they did in the Euros of 2016. An under-looked Portuguese team had a rocky road to the final, having to come back on 3 occasions against a determined Hungary to draw 3-3 and with the majority of knockout games decided by the fine margins of a goal or in extra time. Added to this, their main talisman Ronaldo was injured just 25 minutes into the final, yet they still managed to claim victory. Since this triumph, the Portugal team has grown stronger still, winning the Nations League in 2018 which saw them dispose of an adept and experienced Netherlands side which consisted of players enduring standout seasons such as Van Dijk, De ligt, De Jong etc.
Seleção fans may have something to look forward to in this Euro 2020 competition after seeing their team strengthen in the last decade or so. Despite CR7 being 35 years old, Portugal are still a more than capable team with a plethora of attacking ability. Bruno Fernandes who recently completed a £65million move to Man Utd in the latter stages of the winter transfer window is a player whose growth has been an eyeful for football fans. He will be such a key player for the Portugal side this European championship more so than in the Nations League.
In the 17/18 season (the season before the nations league took place), Bruno Fernandes statistics were impressive. 16 goals and 20 assists for Sporting CP from the box to box midfielder role was and is a great feat. He then went on to achieve 32 goals and 18 assists the following season, showing glimpses of the goal scoring midfielder we saw in the likes of Lampard. He currently has 15 goals and assists each at the halfway mark of this season, which shows the consistency and class that Fernandes retains. With Ronaldo aging, Bruno Fernandes will be a key component in the Portugal team as they will look to him to chip in with goals and assists in the upcoming Euro championships in a bid to take some of the responsibility off of the 35 year old.
While Bernardo Silva’s statistics may not be as impressive, stats don’t tell the full story with this tenacious player. His game brings a ferocious press and key decision making in the final third. His versatility and experience is enough to also ease some of the burden of carrying the team off of Ronaldo. There are many more honourable mentions within this side such as goalkeeper Rui Patricio, Ruben Neves, Joao Felix, Nelson Semedo, Joao Cancelo and more who are playing within top teams in Europe’s top 5 leagues. The balance of competent attackers and defenders could see the side flourish now more than ever
Portugal have been growing stronger as a team due to the numerous individual talent across the field. Therefore it can be said that they are more equipped now than ever before to retain their European champions title. Nevertheless, teams around them have strengthened too and with recent World Cup winners France and Germany in their group, any slip ups could make it a struggle for Portugal to even make it out their group of death.
By Chris A