|Major Honours||UEFA European Championships (1), UEFA Nations League (1)|
Portugal’s men’s national soccer team, also known as A Selecao, is one of the most respected national sides in the game. They were crowned European champions in 2016.
Portugal were also crowned UEFA Nations League champions in 2019, and are famous for iconic players across generations, including Eusebio, Luis Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Portugal's national team is governed by the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF) and their home stadium is the Estadio Nacional, which has a capacity of 37,593 and is also the current home ground of Portuguese club Belenenses.
The national team's beginnings
Portugal played their first international match in 1921 and they contested friendlies for much of their early existence, before taking part in their first major international tournament - the 1928 Olympics.
Portugal were not invited to the first FIFA World Cup in 1930 due to the early format of the tournament, and thereafter failed in multiple qualification attempts before the Second World War halted World Cups for 12 years. In 1950, they were invited to replace Spain, who had withdrawn from participating in the tournament, but declined the invitation.
The 1950s saw continuing failed attempts for Portugal to qualify for the World Cup as major international football eluded the Selecao. A comprehensive 9-1 defeat to Austria ended their qualification for the 1954 World Cup, while they could not finish top of their qualifying group in 1958 - but better times were soon around the corner.
Reaching a major tournament in the 1960s
In the 1960s, Portuguese soccer scaled unprecedented heights. At the 1960 European Football Championships, they went all the way to the quarter-finals before eventually being eliminated by Yugoslavia, before what was then a four-team knockout finals tournament.
Portugal finished behind England in their 1962 World Cup qualification group and therefore missed out on the finals and were eliminated in a qualifying play-off for the 1964 European Championships by Bulgaria.
However, they fared much better in the 1966 World Cup after taking the final step to qualify for the tournament for the first time, inspired by Mozambique-born superstar Eusebio.
He was the top scorer at the tournament with nine goals as Portugal beat Hungary, Bulgaria and Brazil in the group stages before eliminating North Korea in the quarter-finals. Portugal lost 2-1 to hosts England in the semi-finals, but beat the Soviet Union 2-1 in the third-place play-off. This remains their best outcome at a World Cup to date.
The tough times soon returned, though, and the Selecao would fail to qualify for another major tournament until the 1984 European Championships.
Portugal in the 1980s
Despite missing out on qualification for the 1982 FIFA World Cup, Portugal enjoyed some success in the 1980s. They qualified for their first European Championships in 1984, coming through a qualifying group containing heavy tournament favourites, the Soviet Union. Portugal would go on to upset the odds to beat the Soviets 1-0 in their group, before getting through to the knockout stages at the main tournament.
France were the Selecao's opponents in the semi-finals of the tournament and a dramatic match ensued. Portugal equalised late on inside 90 minutes to take the tie to extra time, before taking the lead in the first half of the additional half-hour. However, France struck twice in quick succession before the final whistle to take a 3-2 win on the day and progress to the final.
Portugal beat West Germany on their own turf to qualify for the 1986 World Cup and then beat England at the tournament itself, but defeats to Poland and Morocco saw them eliminated at the group stages.
Portugal did not appear at another major tournament until Euro 1996, by which time they were ushering in a new golden generation of players.
Portugal's golden period
Portugal won the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 1989 and 1991 and that generation went on to kickstart a golden era for the senior squad.
At UEFA Euro 1996, Portugal finished first in their group, but lost to the Czech Republic in the quarter-finals.
Despite failing to qualify for the 1998 World Cup, Portugal enjoyed an impressive run of form at UEFA Euro 2000.
They beat England, Romania and Germany to top Group A and then Turkey in the quarter-finals. However, a penalty against Abel Xavier for handball in extra time, converted by Zinedine Zidane, saw France beat Portugal in the semi-finals.
The 2002 World Cup saw Portugal eliminated in the group stage and manager Antonio Oliveira was fired.
Shortly before Euro 2004, Portugal hired one of their most successful managers ever, Luiz Felipe Scolari, who had won the 2002 World Cup with Brazil.
On home soil at the European Championships, Portugal lost the first game 2-1 to Greece. They subsequently recovered, beating Russia 2-0 and Spain 1-0. They beat England on penalties after a 2-2 draw in the quarter-finals and went on to defeat the Netherlands 2-1 in the semi-finals.
Unfortunately for Portugal, they were stunned once again by heavy underdogs Greece in the final, losing 1-0.
Portugal enjoyed another impressive run at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. They topped Group D after beating Angola, Iran and Mexico, beating the Netherlands 1-0 in the round of 16 in a match which infamously saw 16 yellow cards and four red cards.
In the quarter-finals, Portugal beat England on penalties following a 0-0 draw. This was another hot-tempered affair marked by Cristiano Ronaldo winking after Wayne Rooney was sent off - a gesture perceived by some as disrespectful to his then-Manchester United team-mate. Ronaldo and Rooney continued to enjoy a productive relationship at club level afterwards.
Portugal took a strong side to UEFA Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland, but there was a distraction hanging over the camp as Scolari would be off to Chelsea following the completion of the tournament.
Portugal beat Turkey and the Czech Republic in their first two group games, but subsequently lost to Switzerland and had to face Germany in the quarter-finals, losing 3-2.
Carlos Queiroz led Portugal into the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Once again, Portugal lost their first knockout match, losing 1-0 to Spain in the last 16. After the tournament, Simao, Paulo Ferreira, Miguel and Tiago all retired from international football.
Euro 2012 saw more disappointment at the hands of Spain, as Portugal were eliminated by the eventual winners in a penalty shootout in the semi-finals under the management of Paulo Bento.
Portugal were thrashed 4-0 by Germany in their first game of the 2014 World Cup. They were unable to recover sufficiently in their next two fixtures, drawing 2-2 with the USA and winning 2-1 against Ghana, crashing out in the group stages.
Portugal and the 2016 European Championships
Santos led Portugal to Euro 2016 in France and, while expectations for the side were high, few would envisage what would happen to the Selecao during the tournament.
After three disappointing draws in the group stages, Portugal only managed to get through to the knockout stages of the Euros by virtue of being one of the third-placed teams with the most points as the last 16 was assembled. From then on, however, the team would still keep up their habit of drawing in 90 minutes.
Their round of 16 tie against Croatia went the distance into extra time, but Portugal saved themselves from the lottery of penalties with a 117th-minute winner from the experienced Ricardo Quaresma firing the Selecao into the quarter-finals.
Santos and his side went to extra time again in the last eight, but this time overcame a dogged Poland side 5-3 on penalties to set up a tie with surprise semi-finalists, Wales. Remarkably, Portugal's 2-0 win against Wales in the semis, courtesy of two goals in four minutes from Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani respectively, was the first game they had won inside 90 minutes at the entire tournament at the sixth attempt - and it was to get through to the final.
Waiting for them in the showpiece match were tournament hosts and eventual World Cup winners two years later, France. Disaster struck midway through the first half when talisman Ronaldo had to come off injured after 25 minutes, but the Selecao managed to, surprise surprise, take the final to extra time. The biggest moment in Portugal's soccer history would follow in the 109th minute, however, when substitute striker Eder fired past Hugo Lloris to cue pandemonium in Portugal and among the supporters in attendance, securing a quite incredible way to win their first major international tournament.
Legends of the Selecao
Eusebio was a crucial player not only because of his incredible achievements on the field of play, but because he paved the way for his fellow African footballers to star in Europe. He passed away in January 2014 and was mourned across the world.
Cristiano Ronaldo is arguably the most iconic Portuguese footballer ever and the Euro 2016 triumph was notable partially because he was able to get his hands on a major international prize before Argentina's Lionel Messi, his main rival for accolades in his generation.
Portugal's biggest rivals
Portugal have a longstanding rivalry with Spain, dating back as far as Portugal's very early matches in 1921. It is known as "The Iberian War" or "The Iberian Derby". Spain have generally had the better of this fixture, even in recent times.
Portugal's national team is followed across the world, partially because of the many players with roots in other countries (for example, Eusebio is widely considered to be an African footballer as well as Portuguese due to having been born in Mozambique).
In Portuguese club soccer, there was a high-profile racism incident when Porto and Mali striker Moussa Marega walked off the pitch after being racially abused by supporters after scoring against Guimaraes.
- Mar 29, 2021
- Mar 24, 2021