Portugal – An Opportunity of Redemption
Posted by John Smith | Published on July 10, 2016
The Estádio da Luz, known to the majority as the stadium of Portuguese giants SL Benfica. And to the others? The stadium which held one of the most upsetting and forgettable days in Portuguese history. Portugal earned the rights to host the European Championships in 2004, and looked the most confident to win their first ever international trophy as the entire tournament began. They flurried past all of their opponents – except Greece – and earned their position in the final on the 4th of July. Only one team claimed victory over A Seleção across the entirety of the tournament, and Portugal had to face them in the final – Greece.
Greece were significantly the underdogs throughout a majority of the tournament, reportedly having odds of 80-1 before the tournament kicked off to win the entire thing. The tournament was only their second ever participation in the tournament. Interestingly, the final between the two was also the first game of the tournament – which was won by Greece, as noted prior. Greece successfully cemented their position in history and defied the odds by beating Portugal in their home country.
Following the embarrassing upset, Portugal fought hard to try and create a meaningful achievement for their country. During the 2006 World Cup, Portugal made it to the semi-finals but unluckily lost to France, followed by a defeat to Germany which made them finish 4th in the entire competition. However, they did not go home empty handed, claiming an award for being the ‘most entertaining team’.
After their successful tenure in the World Cup, Portugal slowly descended into a poor state. They were knocked out of EURO 2008 in the Quarter Finals, were eliminated from the 2010 World Cup in the round of sixteen and were defeated by eventual winners Spain during EURO 2012. This form took a turn for the worst as they were shockingly ousted from the 2014 World Cup in the group stages of the competition. Since then, things have slowly begun to look promising for the Portuguese national team.
Twelve years on from their embarrassing defeat to Greece, A Seleção find themselves in a similar predicament from their humiliation in the final from a different perspective. They find themselves in the final of the European Championships once again, with their opponents France – the hosts of the competition. Following a variety of difficult moments, Portugal has finally got their shot at redemption, versus the current hosts France in the final of the EUROs.
Just like how it was twelve years prior, the hosts go into the game as favourites to win the entire competition in their homeland, with many not rating Portugal’s chances. Considering Portugal have only won one game across the entire competition in 90 minutes, it’s not extraordinary that France are the clear favourites to win the tournament. Portugal was clearly under par across their group stage games and was appalling in their game versus Croatia as they managed their first shot on target just before the 120th-minute mark – which won them the game.
Regardless of their disappointing form across the entirety of the tournament, Portugal’s most recent performance versus Wales in the semi-finals was full of positives. The side dominated The Dragons in an exciting contest which ultimately A Seleção won. Nevertheless, Portugal have done just as much as France to reach the final of the competition, and deservingly should not be undervalued.
Cristiano Ronaldo will most certainly be one to watch in tonight’s game, considering he is the only member of the Portuguese team who also played in the disappointing EURO 2004 final versus Greece and will inevitably start in the final against Les Bleus. Ronaldo has found himself winning trophies including the: Champions League, Premier League and also La Liga but has never won an international trophy. This surprisingly compares with his greatest rival – Lionel Messi – who also has failed to win an international trophy. Tonight is the night for the Portuguese man to get one ahead of his rival.
Although Ronaldo is all but confirmed to be the only player to play in both the EURO 2004 and 2016 finals, he may not be the only one to achieve it. If Portuguese defender Ricardo Carvalho plays in the final – whether it is on the bench or in the starting lineup – he will be the only other player to play in both finals for his country. Since this could be his last ever appearance in football altogether, helping his country win the trophy they failed to capitalise on twelve years prior may be a good way to hang up your boots.
A Seleção will also be looking towards some of their emerging younger stars to have an impact on the final. Raphaël Guerreiro, Andre Gomes, and Renato Sanches are all examples of modern players who could undoubtedly make a significant impact on the game tonight, as proven by their performances in other games. Guerreiro has been arguably the best left back in the entire tournament, Gomes has shown a lot of promise whilst Sanches has justified Bayern Munich’s reasoning for purchasing him with his talented displays in midfield.
As mentioned beforehand, France will undoubtedly enter this game as the favourites, their incredible form on top of their beloved support from the fans in their home country will look to drive Les Bleus to victory. Forwards Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann have both been in incredible form too, with the duo having an exciting partnership with one another. Despite the positivity, this is near identical to what Portugal players faced prior to the defeat at the Estádio da Luz.
Regardless of the fact that France are the clear favourites to win the competition, it would be a true spectacle to see Portugal lift the European Championship trophy after what has been a lacklustre tournament in general. Their fight for redemption and claiming the trophy they failed to win would truly be a fantastic story to tell.