Sporting Clube de Braga can be considered a club that lives in football limbo in Portugal. They do not quite have the potential of the traditional big three, namely Benfica, FC Porto and Sporting CP.

But they are head and shoulders clear of the rest of the Portuguese top flight and as such, sometimes endure lonely campaigns in no man’s land in fourth place. 

This year, that could be set to change. Heading into the final weeks of the campaign, Os Arsenalistas are sitting in third place in the Primeira Liga, currently six points behind league leaders Benfica but they visit the table toppers next week which gives them a chance to cut the lead to three points, and with the head-to-head advantage having won the first game between the two sides earlier this season.

Should everything go to plan, a first-ever Portuguese title remains a possibility, albeit an unlikely one.

Futures and sports lines on online sportsbooks make the club from the red half of Lisbon the -600 favorites for the crown this term and let’s face it, it’s clear to see why. They have reached the latter stages of the Champions League this term and they have been Portugal’s most impressive team this year. But fans of Braga will be hoping for a miracle, and as Benfica still have them to play, as well as Sporting, that miracle may yet come.

If it doesn’t materialise, however, fans of Portugal’s fourth-biggest club can still look back on yet another successful campaign. In years to come, the current term may very well make it into the history books. But until then, these are the greatest moments in Braga’s history.

Reaching the UEFA Europa League Final in 2011

In the 2009/10 season, Braga secured their best-ever finish in the Portuguese top flight when they finished second, five points behind eventual champions Benfica. They converted that runner-up spot into a maiden campaign in the UEFA Champions League, however, they would drop into the Europa League for the seventh consecutive campaign. But fans of the club couldn’t have dreamed of the journey their club was about to embark upon.

A famous 2-0 victory over Arsenal in the Champions League wasn’t enough to secure safe passage to the knockout stages, so they would instead face Polish outfit Lech Poznan in the last 32 of the Europa League. They were dispatched following a come-from-behind 2-1 victory, before Braga then faced off against another English giant in Liverpool. An early penalty from Brazilian attacker Alan was enough to secure a 1-0 victory in the home leg, and the Reds were unable to overturn the deficit, which saw the Portuguese outfit progress to the quarterfinals and a date with Dynamo Kyiv.

The first leg in Ukraine finished one apiece, with the visitors securing the all-important away goal. And that goal would prove decisive after the second leg finished goalless. The away goals victory set up an all-Portuguese semi-final against Benfica with a spot in the Dublin showpiece on the line.

Braga were huge underdogs against their compatriots but a 2-1 defeat on away turf in the first leg left the club with hope. That hope turned into reality when an early goal from Custódio Castro gave Braga the lead on away goals, and it was a lead they wouldn’t surrender. The victory ensured that the club would reach a major European final for the first time in their history.

In the end, though, it would end in heartbreak inside Dublin’s Aviva Stadium. They would face off against FC Porto in the first-ever all-Portuguese European final, where they ran into a Radamel Falcao at the peak of his powers. The Colombian hitman would score the only goal of the game on the stroke of halftime, taking the title to Porto and leaving the Dragões to celebrate long into the night.

First major trophy in 47 years

Despite being comfortably the fourth-best team in Portugal, Braga couldn’t convert their impressive status within the country into trophies. That all changed in 2013 when they lifted the Taça da Liga for the first time in the club’s history. The success was only the second piece of silverware the club had ever lifted following their maiden Taça de Portugal success in 1966.

Braga topped both of their groups during the two group stages. But if they wanted to taste success, they would have to do it the hard way. They faced Benfica in the semi-finals, just as they did two years prior in the Europa League. Following a goalless draw, Os Guerreiros would progress to the final after they held their nerve in a nail-biting penalty shootout.

Then, just as was the case once again two years prior, they would meet FC Porto in the final. This time, however, they would come out on top. Alan’s penalty on the stroke of half time was the only goal of the game, securing a 1-0 victory and sparking scenes that the city of Braga never thought it would ever see.

The result was the birth point of a golden era in the history of SC Braga. Three years on from that success the club would lift the Taça de Portugal for just the second time in their history and exactly half a century on from their first-ever success in the competition. Four years on, they would once again lift the League Cup, before winning the Taça de Portugal for the second time in five years the following year.

Braga’s ascension over the past decade has arguably been the biggest story in modern Portuguese football history. Should Braga realise the dream of president António Salvador and finally win the national championship, the “Big Three” moniker should definitively be cast aside and replaced with the “Big Four”.


Comments (1)

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Much respect to Braga. They have always been a compelling team to watch in the Liga. Always up for it, and almost always play exciting, flair futebol.

Though I want my Porto to win this year, seeing Braga somehow best the odds would also be...

Much respect to Braga. They have always been a compelling team to watch in the Liga. Always up for it, and almost always play exciting, flair futebol.

Though I want my Porto to win this year, seeing Braga somehow best the odds would also be incredible and they would have my respect.

That said, I don't know how I feel about Qatar making them a farm team for PSG and potentially Man Utd. Some people think it is beneficial to Braga but I disagree. I think it will be unstable as new players will turnover even faster than normal and there will be a lack of stability.

This is still just an idea, because as far as I know, Qatar only has 20% stake in the club. But these are the problems of modern day futebol. Money tends to ruin everything.

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