Portugal Euro 2016 Squad - Analysis and Upcoming Fixtures
Exactly 12 years, ago, Portugal held its breath as hosts of the 2004 edition. That one would culminate in heartbreak for the home nation, as the unfancied Greeks won their very first European trophy – just weeks after their first competitive European victory. They beat the hosts 2-1 in the final, despite the big-game nous of Luis Figo and the emergence of the mercurial Cristiano Ronaldo.
Since then, they’ve reached 2 more semi-finals, losing out to Germany in 2008 and to eventual winners Spain in 2012. However, that was the last convincing performance the Portuguese put in as a group. As numerous experienced players were replaced, the quality of the squad dropped as the domestic leagues were poached of their finest talent.
The team’s dependence on Cristiano Ronaldo increased not only because of his quality, but also because of the chopping and changing, which only he, seems to have avoided. Managers came and went, players came and went but Ronaldo was always there to bail the team out.
At the last World Cup, the Real Madrid player got injured and they crashed out – taking a 4-0 pummeling from the champions-to-be Germany. The Champions League winner will be highly motivated to win as usual, but this time round the team around him looks ready to step it up to the next level. With some fresh young faces and only the best of the oldies, Portugal could build on last time’s semi-final finish.
The biggest news was the inclusion of 18-year-old Bayern Munich signing Renato Sanches (for €45 million) and the fitness of talisman Cristiano Ronaldo.
The young Portuguese midfielder from Benfica has been a revelation in their midfield. Strong, fast and brisk on the tackle, Sanches will be a beast in the Portuguese midfield. His inexperience may count against him but his new employers will be watching intently. Tiago Mendes’ long-term injury, unfortunately, made him miss out, but the competition for spots that ensues might benefit his country.
Anyone who watched Cristiano Ronaldo’s Champions League final win will have noticed the sharpshooter's lack of fitness. Coach Fernando Santos will be particularly worried, but less so than previous Portugal coaches. Either way - injured or not, he was bound to be on the plane to France anyway.
Alongside him is the 38-year-old ex-Chelsea stalwart Ricardo Carvalho, back in the fold after disagreements with the previous incumbent.Unfortunately, his Monaco team-mate Fabio Coentrao suffered a thigh injury that has ruled him out of the squad.
Here is Portugal’s full Euro 2016 squad:
Goalkeepers: Rui Patricio (Sporting CP), Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Eduardo (Dinamo Zagreb)
Defenders: Vierinha (Wolfsburg), Cedric (Southampton), Pepe (Real Madrid), Ricardo Carvalho (Monaco), Bruno Alves (Fenerbahce), Jose Fonte (Southampton), Eliseu (Benfica), Raphael Guerreiro (Lorient)
Midfielders: William Carvalho (Sporting CP), Danilo Pereira (Porto), Joao Moutinho (Monaco), Renato Sanches (Benfica), Adrien Silva (Sporting CP), Andre Gomes (Valencia), Joao Mario (Sporting CP)
Forwards: Rafa Silva (Braga), Ricardo Quaresma (Besiktas), Nani (Fenerbahce), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Eder (Lille)
Portugal Coach: Fernando Santos
After a dismal World Cup campaign, Paulo Bento was allowed to stay on as coach. After Albania defeated the Portuguese in Aveiro at the start of the qualification campaign, he was sacked and Fernando Santos brought in.
The new manager has overseen a difficult but very successful run of 7 consecutive wins. Although none of the wins were by more than 1 goal, the resilience, and difficulty with which they earned them should encourage fans. Comebacks and injury-time winners formed a major part of the wins - although cynics might say that given Portugal’s squad, they made a meal of it against much weaker teams. Accusations of over-reliance on the team’s superstar remain - but Santos’ has previously admitted their veracity anyway.
His team will play a pragmatic, direct style to bring the best out of their rapid attackers and muscular midfielders and defenders.
UEFA Euro 2016 Team Preview: Formations & Tactics
In a 4-4-2, Portugal will employ two ‘false wingers’ to flank a midfield pairing of Moutinho and a midfield hard-man, probably Sporting’s Carvalho. The latter will be tasked with protecting Carvalho and giving him options to pass to as the winger’s cut in to receive the ball in midfield and support the strikers or go wide to stretch play and swing it in.
With players like Ronaldo and Nani, Portugal will certainly look to take advantage of every set-piece they can; from corners to free-kicks and every penalty. Although the team sometimes looks like it lacks fluency, Santos will be confident that if they stay solid and wait for opportunities on the transition or from set-pieces, they can see out any match.
UEFA Euro 2016 Team Preview: Road to the Euro Finals
True to their recent tournament form, Portugal were just competent enough to beat the opposition in their group.
Their qualification campaign began with a shuddering halt as they fell 1-0 to Albania courtesy of Balaji's 52nd-minute striker in Aveiro, Portugal. This prompted a managerial change from Paulo Bento Fernando Santos. In the following match against Denmark, they were pushed all the way, until the stupendous Ronaldo netted a 95th-minute clincher.
That man Ronaldo was at it again when Portugal next played, downing Armenia in the 72nd minute. Ricardo Carvalho and Fabio Coentrao completed the Real Madrid connection as they combined to cancel out Nemanja Matic’s equaliser when Portugal beat Serbia 2-1. Armenia opened the scoring in the following game - but Portugal has one of the world’s finest. He equalised from the spot before netting a brace in the second half as Armenia’s late consolation made it 3-2.
Veloso would net Portugal’s second injury-time winner to avenge their opening defeat to the Albanians, now in Elbasan. Joao Moutinho downed Denmark 1-0 in the next fixture before he put the winner past Serbia after Nani’s opener was cancelled out. Portugal scored 11, conceded 5 and won all bar one of their 8 matches.
UEFA Euro 2016 Team Preview: Strengths & Weaknesses
Strengths: Portugal’s attack is one of the fastest in the world, with a reunited circle from Sporting and Manchester United. Quaresma, Nani and Ronaldo are blinding fast, dribble a lot and can shoot from every angle on the pitch. They are also all very capable at set-pieces, penalties, etc - you name it. The midfield is very muscular and very young, with Sanches and Carvalho keeping things tight at the back and assisting Moutinho in moving the ball about the pitch.
Weaknesses: Portugal’s defence is still not completely convincing, especially if they wind up relying on the brilliant but aging Ricardo Carvalho. With a new coach and new, young players, this squad still looks a bit green; lacking top-level experience and chemistry.
UEFA Euro 2016 Team Preview: Our Prediction
Portugal have a really solid unit this time round, with the midfield looking infinitely more solid with players like William Carvalho and Renato Sanches. Up front, the cast is still the same but the set is different and they’ve had decent seasons; Ronaldo won the club version of this tournament.
With only penalties denying them a spot in the final against Italy in 2012, Portugal know that the talent is there. Coach Fernando Santos has refreshed the squad whilst keeping its core attributes, which should ensure a smooth transition.
Portugal on their day will be capable of beating most teams - if Santos’ tactical nous can match the other coaches’ then Cristiano Ronaldo could really become a double European champion.
3rd June- England vs Portugal
9th June- Portugal vs Estonia
15th June- Portugal vs Iceland
19the June- Portugal vs Austria
22nd June- Hungary vs Portugal