The new season has only just begun and that means that the first international break is just around the corner. Some fans don’t like the idea of a season being interrupted so early. But for Portugal supporters it gives us another chance to watch our team continue its winning start under new coach Roberto Martínez.
The 2024 European Championship won’t take place until next summer in Germany but thoughts of the Seleção lifting the trophy once again are exciting Portuguese fans. The qualifying campaign still has a way to go before we know for sure whether Portugal will even be at the finals. But we are assuming that that will be the case – and the online sports betting sites seem to be quite confident too.
Will Cristiano Ronaldo lead Portugal to another triumph? Will CR7 even still be playing?
Successful Euro history
Before the turn of the century, Portugal was not really a big name in the world of international football. A third-place finish at the 1966 World Cup, thanks to the legendary Eusébio, and reaching the semifinals of the 1984 European Championship was all that we could shout about.
There was already a very good squad of players before Ronaldo made his debut in 2003 but his arrival heralded a golden age for Portuguese football that is still running its course. Appearances at the World Cup have been largely disappointing, Germany 2006 aside, underachieving on the global stage. But the Seleção has certainly done the business at the Euros.
Less said about the most recent tournament the better, but in the five before that, Portugal made it to the final four on four occasions. There was the bitter heartache of losing the 2004 competition on home soil to huge underdogs Greece. But those ghosts were laid to rest in 2016 when Portugal finally lifted a major international trophy, beating France in Paris, of all places.
We are not even halfway through the qualifying campaign for Euro 2024, but the Seleção are already looking very good for a berth at the finals. Four wins from four, with 14 goals scored and none conceded at all, leaves Portugal at the top of Group J, with Slovakia the only other team managing to keep anywhere near.
Slovakia is actually the only team in the group that Portugal have not played yet, with the players really taking advantage of what was a very kind draw. A 4-0 win at home against Liechtenstein started the ball rolling and that was followed by a thumping 6-0 win away in Luxembourg. Then came a 3-0 win against Bosnia and Herzegovina, before Cristiano Ronaldo popped up in the 89th minute to score the only goal of the game in Iceland. It was also the great man’s 200th game for his country.
Although the foreign media may sometimes paint it differently, it is not just the Cristiano Ronaldo show. Of course, the greatest player ever to cross the white lines is hugely important to the success of the Seleção – and has been for 20 years now. But it is very much a team effort that has helped Portugal become so successful, even more so nowadays as Ronaldo’s superhuman powers at last begin to wane.
From the brilliant Diogo Costa in goal, to the ageless Pepe at the back, the creative qualities of Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva in the middle, and the younger generation up front – with the likes of João Félix and Rafael Leão – Portugal is blessed with immense talent.
Even when Ronaldo has spent time on the bench, or his rare absences because of injury, Portugal have triumphed. With it looking increasingly likely that the Seleção will qualify for Euro 2024, why shouldn’t hopes be high of lifting the trophy for the second time?
Teams to beat
So, assuming that Portugal does book its place at the finals, who will be the teams to beat? Although the host nation has performed poorly at a string of recent major tournaments, home advantage will surely benefit Germany. Once the competition gets underway, the players will thrive on the atmosphere created by the fans – assuming that Germany is winning, of course.
France looks like the favorites to win Euro 2024 at the current time. That’s not surprising considering the incredible talent Didier Deschamps has at his disposal. A lot may depend on what kind of season Kylian Mbappé has though, especially if he becomes more unhappy at Paris Saint-Germain.
Although Spain and even the Netherlands and Italy should be considered as potential challengers, it is England that has consistently performed at the most recent tournaments. There does seem to be something of a psychological barrier for the Three Lions when it comes to actually winning a final though – and Portugal would surely fancy their chances against Gareth Southgate’s side in an important game.
Portugal is so blessed with incredible footballers that they have to be in with a very good chance of winning the European Championship, which may provide the perfect occasion for Ronaldo to hang up his boots. But, according to all reports, CR7 has no intention of quitting on his country – with plans to continue playing at the top until he is 40 at least, perhaps even squeezing in another World Cup.
After the underwhelming nature of Portugal’s exit from the most recent World Cup, Ronaldo will feel as if he has something to prove – and what better way of doing that than lifting the trophy at the end of the Euro 2024 final? Even a move to Saudi Arabia doesn’t seem quite as a step backwards as previously thought, now that many of the world’s top players have joined Ronaldo in the Middle East.
Portugal – Euro 2024 winners
Euro 2024 winners – that sounds good, doesn’t it? We are obviously biased but there doesn’t seem to be any reason why the Seleção shouldn’t go on to win its second title. It would be a fitting end to Ronaldo’s career (assuming that he doesn’t carry on playing even longer) and the squad is made up of players starring for the top clubs in England, Italy, Spain and Germany – as well as in Saudi Arabia.