UEFA EURO reporter’s view: Portugal
UEFA.com’s Portugal reporter for the finals Joe Walker specs out Fernando Santos’s finals options, and finds that his side is not just a one-man show.
Portugal have plenty of experience in goal and at the back, and strength in depth in midfield, where the injury-enforced absences of Tiago and Bernardo Silva might present an opportunity for man of the moment Renato Sanches. The lack of a genuine No9 may ratchet up the goalscoring pressure on Cristiano Ronaldo, but he is a player who tends to thrive under pressure.
One to watch
Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portugal skipper is his country’s all-time leading goalscorer, and is just two off Luis Figo’s record of 127 caps – a number he should pass during the tournament. The Real Madrid forward is the all-time record goalscorer in EURO history (including qualifiers) and will be looking to become the first player to register in four EURO tournaments.
How they’ll play
Fernando Santos sets up his side with a 4-3-3 formation, which gives Ronaldo the same free role within the front three he enjoys at club level. João Moutinho will pull the strings in midfield, with the likes of Danilo Pereira and Sanches providing energy in that area. At the back, veteran trio Pepe, Bruno Alves and Ricardo Carvalho bring big-game experience to the party.
What you won’t know
A Selecção have an impressive crop of youngsters. Sporting’s William Carvalho was named player of the tournament as Portugal finished runners-up at the 2015 UEFA European Under-21 Championship, while 18-year-old Sanches – who has just signed for Bayern München – impressed this season at Benfica. This tournament will bring a glimpse of the future for Portugal.
How they’ll do
Portugal have reached the semi-finals in three of their six EURO final tournaments, and infamously finished runners-up on home soil in 2004. A good blend of youth an experience bodes well, but you get the feeling going all the way might be a tournament too soon for this crop of youngsters. Another last-four should be within their reach, however.
Most memorable EURO moment
Seeing Greece (sorry Portugal fans!) confound logic to win the 2004 edition stands out, but nothing beats being in Spain for the 2008 final. Watching from a packed-out terrace on a boiling hot late June evening as a football-mad nation finally witnessed their side winning the tournament while playing brilliant football will take some beating.
What I’m most looking forward to this summer
So much to choose from. A united France backing their side to the hilt means there will be a buzz about the whole country. The prospect of watching fans having a good time in addition to seeing nations like Iceland, Northern Ireland, Wales and Albania make their bows in a EURO tournament means it really is impossible to pick just one thing.