Fifty years after their debut appearance at a major tournament, Portugal finally got their first major international trophy when they lifted the 2016 European Championship in Paris last month.
That first piece of silverware was a long time coming, but the Seleção have been involved in a number of memorable matches over the decades. Below are the top five matches ever played by Portugal’s national football team.
Number 5: Portugal 2-1 Netherlands (Euro 2012)
Group B at Euro 2012 was without question the Group of Death, with each side (Germany, Netherlands, Portugal and Denmark) ranking in FIFA’s Top 10 at the time. Heading into the final round, any of the four countries could still qualify for the next stage despite Portugal’s opponents, World Cup runners-up Holland, having zero points. And it looked like the Dutch were finally going to start playing to their potential when Rafael Van der Vaart scored in just the 11th minute of the match.
But the Portuguese defence was stubborn from then on, allowing Ronaldo to do what he does best: frustrate and dazzle, twice making stellar runs that resulted in the two goals Portugal needed to win and advance as the second-place team in the group.
Number 4: Portugal 3-2 England (Euro 2000)
For England, it was a classic footballing fail that an entire country wanted to forget as soon it was over; for Portugal it was a classic comeback the country will never forget. The opening Euro 2000 match for the two sides, England raced out early to a 2-0 lead in the first 18 minutes.
But twenty minutes later the match was level again thanks to goals from legends Luís Figo and João Pinto. The rest of the match, Portugal played like a team possessed, and it was Nuno Gomes who scored the winner. The historic comeback was indicative of each sides’ fortunes for the rest of the tournament, with England failing to advance past the group stage and Portugal making it all the way to the semis.
As anyone who has followed the Seleção over the years knows, Portugal is a side you never count out, both as a fan or a bettor. Often the underdog in big international matches, Portugal can often punish your heart if you root against them (or reward your bank account if you bet on the right outcome.)
Number 3: France 3-2 Portugal (Euro 1984)
Although it didn’t end in victory, Portugal’s Euro 1984 semi-final loss against France was no less an amazing match. Appearing in their first European Championship, Portugal showed massive heart throughout the free-flowing affair. Rui Jordão equalized France’s early lead in the 74th minute, which sent the match into extra time.
Then Jordão was at it again, scoring to give Portugal a 2-1 lead. But it wasn’t meant to be, as France threw almost their entire team forward into the attack, resulting in two French goals in five minutes, signifying the end of Portugal’s special run. However, for their effort, Portugal was now on the world football map.
Number 2: Portugal 5-3 North Korea (1966 World Cup)
North Korea was perhaps the surprise of the 1966 World Cup, entering the tournament under a shroud of mystery and as a 1,000:1 underdog. But unexpectedly, they drew their second group stage match against Chile and amazingly defeated Italy 1-0 to advance to the knockout stage against Portugal.
Despite going undefeated in group play, North Korea shut down Portugal in the first half and seemingly locked the game up in the first 25 minutes, going up 3-0. But Eusébio is a legend for a reason, and his four goals that match are part of the reason why. José Augusto added a fifth and the dramatic comeback allowed Portugal to advance to the semis.
Number 1: Portugal 1-0 France (Euro 2016 Final)
Heading into the 2016 tournament, four times previously Portugal had made it to the semis or further in the Euros, and four times they had failed to lift the Henri Delaunay Trophy. And multiple times at Euro 2016 it looked like that was going to be the case again, as Portugal’s play in the group stage looked mostly uninspired. After three draws, they were only able to advance due to the new expanded tournament format, having finished in third place in Group F.
But as any champion team does, the Seleção kept finding a way to win, grinding out 1-0 (a.e.t.), 1-1 (5-3 on PKs), and 2-0 wins in the round of 16 (Croatia), quarters (Poland), and semis (Wales). That set them up as big underdogs against hosts France, who had never experienced anything but victory when locking horns with Portugal in competitive play.
Despite losing Ronaldo in the first half, seemingly the sign of certain doom, Portugal once again found the way to get the match to extra time, where substitute Eder became the unlikely legend. Unleashing a shot from 25 yards out, the ball found both the corner of the net and Portugal had won their first major international trophy. It certainly was not Portugal’s most exhilarating performance, but in terms of significance there was no greater moment in the Seleção’s football history.