Portugal’s Euro 1996 campaign revisited

With excitement building ahead of the fast approaching 2024 European Championship, it’s time to take a trip back in time and relive a tournament that was a precursor to the golden era of the modern-day Seleção.

There was a palpable feeling that something exciting was brewing in Portuguese football after the magnificent double conquest of the World Youth Cup by Carlos Queiroz’s Portugal team in 1989 and 1991. 

But failure to qualify for Euro 1992 and World Cup 1994 raised fears that the success of the Seleção at youth level could not be transposed to the senior game.

However, the famed golden generation, led by Luís Figo and Rui Costa, finally earned their chance to shine on the highest stage by strolling through Euro 1996 qualification to take their place at the tournament held in England. 

António Oliveira’s men were even considered dark horses for the tournament by some pundits and their performances at the competition famously earned them praise for playing “sexy football” from Ruud Gullit.

Alas, despite winning their group with seven points from three games, Portugal came unstuck against the Czech Republic in the quarter-finals when Karel Poborsky, who would later play for Benfica, produced one of the most audacious lobs seen in tournament football over the stranded Vítor Baía.

Tom Kundert discusses Portugal’s campaign match by match with host John Bleasdale on The Scottish Football Forums podcast.

The chat ends with an assessment of the prospects for the Seleção at this year’s tournament in Germany and with Tom compiling a combined Portugal XI from the Euro 1996 squad and the current team. Do you agree? 

Combined Euro 1996 and Euro 2024 Portugal XI:

(Disclaimer! The eleven I gave when speaking to John was compiled off the cuff and upon reflection I would, of course, have chosen Paulo Sousa as the holding midfielder over João Palhinha)