That’s a big hit
European champions Portugal will enter next year’s campaign as both defending champions and a dark horse who for four years have carried bragging rights in football’s most competitive lands.
The Portuguese national team finished third in their group back in 2016 but were able to progress to the knockout stages thanks to a tweak in the tournament’s format, which allowed the four best third-placed teams from the six groups to make the final 16.
Despite a rough finish to the group stage that saw them finish with three points, Portugal were able to progress through to the final where an unlikely hero in substitute Eder was able to seal Portugal’s fate as champions against a star-studded French team at home in Paris.
Since then, Portugal have had a mix of success and disappointment in international competitions. Portugal currently sit in sixth place in FIFA’s world rankings, which seems fitting considering their recent endeavours and surge in star players.
The World Cup in Russia was a tournament to forget for Portugal with a round-of-16 elimination to Uruguay after scraping their way into the knockout phase. However, later that same year, the inaugural UEFA Nations League kicked off in an attempt to replace meaningless international friendlies with a season-long campaign of competitive international football.
The format’s inception should be praised as an attempt at growing the already exceptional level of world football. Portugal claimed the competition’s first crown in June 2019, yet are still underdogs moving forward into next year’s European championship.
For years, journalists and fans alike have been questioning Portugal’s future post Ronaldo, pointing to the lack of a supporting cast. The Nations League was the first time in years where the promise of Portugal’s bright future was broadcast to the world as they performed convincingly enough to prove that there is in fact life after Ronaldo.
With Ronaldo playing number nine, Portugal will have one of the most formidable attacking diamonds in world football.
Supported by 19-year-old, €126m starlet Joao Felix, Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva and one of the most sought-after talents in world football – goal-scoring midfielder Bruno Fernandes – Ronaldo and co. will form an attacking nightmare for the best defences at Euro 2020.
Since Ronaldo’s rise to stardom, Portugal have been considered one of the best counter-attacking teams in world football.
With a recent rise in attacking wing backs, which can be credited to Pep Guardiola’s strategic brilliance, Portugal have forged two world-class wing backs to support their deadly attack and overcrowd opposing defences.
Barcelona’s Nelson Semedo – who has played 60-plus matches for the Spanish giants since 2017 – and Manchester City’s Joao Cancelo – who was brought over from Juventus to assist Pep Guardiola in finalising his strategic goals – means Portugal will have one of the best line-ups in the world moving into 2020. This is without going into depth on the brilliance of Ruben Neves, Gelson Martins and Goncalo Guedes to name a few.
On the back of recent success and the team’s players performing at high levels for the biggest clubs in Europe, Portugal are my favourites moving in to next years Euro 2020.
And although Ronaldo is aging and not scoring 50-plus goals a season anymore, he is scoring in the mid-20s, a number that the best strikers in the world struggle to obtain. On the back of his milestone 700th goal for club and country, Ronaldo is still going strong and will once again perform for the national team, where his passion has always burnt the most.
Keep an eye out for Portugal next year because that’s where I’ll be putting my money.