TWO MAJOR TROPHIES IN FIVE YEARS, PORTUGAL ARE FAVOURITES TO BE CROWNED CHAMPIONS OF EUROPE ONCE AGAIN; BUT WHAT MAKES THE SELECAO SO DOMINANT IN EUROPE?
Cristiano Ronaldo a few hours ago took to Instagram to commemorate Portugal’s iconic Nations League victory against the mighty Dutch. The second piece of silverware in 3 years, Portugal have established themselves as giants of European football.
Once again the Selecao will begin their hunt for glory, with the European kings looking to retain their prestigious crown.
With a roster full of galacticos, Portugal’s chances of defending the title have been bolstered. Cristiano Ronaldo, the fulcrum of Portugal’s attack will look to deliver a jaw-dropping performance this summer. A 4-0 thrashing of Israel clearly suggested that the Selecao are ready for the battle.
— Portugal (@selecaoportugal) June 9, 2021
Although a question that arises is how did Santos’ squad become one of the invincibles of football? How did a team who were faltering in the knockout phases and sometimes even the group stages conquer the Euro 2016 and the Nations League title?
FootTheBall digs deep to find out how the Portuguese have turned from ‘Challengers’ to ‘Conquerors’.
DEVELOPING PLAYERS AT A YOUNG AGE
Fewer resources might be a headache for Portugal but finding a head coach never seems to be troublesome for Selecao. With just a handful of resources available, the Portuguese coaches know how to locate a diamond in a coal mine. The Portuguese youngsters go through immense pressure, heat, and challenges before they get an opportunity to announce their arrival.
These hurdles benefit them by making them prepared for any battle out there on the pitch. Try reading about Ronaldo’s hardships. A titan at Theatre of Dreams, Ronaldo’s journey started in Sporting Lisbon where his performances impressed one of the greatest managers, Sir Alex Ferguson. Or does anyone remember Renato Sanches, a youngster who shone on the international level when he delivered outstanding performances for his country?
Campeão europeu 🙌🏽⚽️✌🏽️ pic.twitter.com/qVEUdahYKf
— renatosanches (@renatosanches35) July 10, 2016
Ruben Dias, the Premier League Player of the Year was a talent manufactured in Benfica. Bruno Fernandes has turned the scenario at Old Trafford upside down, the magician began his footballing journey at Sporting Lisbon. Fernandes burst onto the scene because of his outstanding performances for the Portuguese club before making the big-money move to the Theatre.
— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) April 11, 2021
Portugal’s process of developing raw talent is exquisite. How can someone forget Joao Felix? The Atletico Madrid midfielder is considered the next heir to Ronaldo’s throne.
A FACTORY OF COACHES
Some of the greatest minds of football come from Portugal and leave a mark on the footballing world. Anyone remember a young Porto squad being crowned European Champions in 2003? Jose Mourinho, the grandmaster was at the engine of the Portuguese club. His heroics for Chelsea landed 3 Premier League titles at Stamford Bridge and without a doubt, he’s one of the best in the business.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) May 26, 2016
Premier League team Wolves have transformed themselves from a team battling relegation to a team challenging for Europe. Another magician at work, Nuno Espirito Santo installed the fighting spirit in Wolves.
The list does not end here, Roma’s former manager Paulo Fonseca revamped Giallorossi to ignite a fightback in the Italian’s camp.
The leader of the counties’ ship, Fernando Santos is one of the greatest managers in Portugal’s history. With brilliant tactics on the field, smart switches, and beautiful adaptation, Santos is a step ahead of the game.
— UEFA EURO 2020 (@EURO2020) December 2, 2019
Santos’ stratagem might have been overshadowed by an animated Cristiano Ronaldo but the former had a pivotal role in turning the Prince into the Kings.
SOMETHING THAT STARTED 20 YEARS AGO
Once a wise man said, “Rome was not built in a day” which is somewhat true in Portugal’s case. The Selecao are one of the strongest teams on paper but the revolution started ages ago. The team in red didn’t feature in the prestigious World Cup for more than a decade.
The eagerness to play football at the highest level ignited the sense of revamping required in the national team. Galacticos like Luis Figo started taking centre stage whereas youngsters like Cristiano Ronaldo were their understudy. This cycle of experience and youth never stopped. For every Ronaldo there was a Figo, for every Ruben Dias there was a Pepe to show him the road to glory.
This is how the Selecao shaped mixing youth with experience. The fresh-bloods could rip apart defences whereas the experienced campaigners could stabilise the momentum of the game. In the final of 2016, a mouth-watering Ronaldo performance was on the cards.
— Cristiano Ronaldo (@Cristiano) July 11, 2016
Unfortunately, the Juventus powerhouse injured himself but did it deplete Santos’ army? No, not at all, they stood up, admitted the fact that Ronaldo was gone, and took the fight to the opposition. An extra-time Eder goal fooling Hugo Lloris rounded off the perfect campaign for Ronaldo’s troops.
A fight-back that started two decades ago is reaping results in the present. With definite resources and unlimited talent at the show, Portugal has turned out to be a reckoning force. Unlimited minutes of hard work off the pitch, limitless dedication, and inexhaustible spirit of football has led the team to silverware. Generational talents like Figo and Ronaldo could be deemed the protagonists of the fairytale story but side-heroes like Eder and Renato Sanchez whose little but valuable contribution helped Portugal become a power-house of football.