Portugal’s Euro 2016 campaign is quite unique. The reason for that being it represents the first time, since group stages were introduced to the tournament in 1980, that a team has reached the semi-finals without having won a game in normal time.
Fernando Santos’ side beat Poland 5-3 on penalties in the quarter-finals following a 1-1 draw after extra time, whilst the Selecao also required 120 minutes of play to overcome Croatia 1-0 in the last 16. Portugal reached that stage after drawing each of their three group games with Iceland, Austria and Hungary.
Therefore despite not winning a game in normal time, Santos’ team have upheld the country’s fine reputation for performing well at European Championships which began when they first qualified for the tournament in 1984.
Fine European Championship History
That year managed by Fernando Carbrita Portugal reached the semi-finals, which prior to their current run to the last four in France, they have done so on three other occasions. Whilst Carbrita’s team lost their 1984 semi-final 3-2 to France after extra time, a similar feat befell the Portuguese side of 2000.
Despite performing valiantly Portugal suffered another painstaking extra-time semi-final loss to the French. Zinedine Zidane scored the winning goal from the penalty spot after 117 minutes, as Roger Lemerre’s side won 2-1 to advance to the final, where they would beat Italy by the same score line.
Portugal’s next semi-final appearance arrived in 2004, when as hosts Selecao beat Holland 2-1 before losing final 1-0 to Greece. Scorer of Portugal’s first goal against Holland was a then 19-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo, who captained the team at Euro 2012, when the Selecao endured another semi-final disappointment.
After their last four encounter with Spain ended 0-0 after extra time, Portugal lost 4-2 on penalties, with Ronaldo not taking a spot-kick since he elected to put himself fifth on the team’s list of penalty takers.
Subsequently the Real Madrid forward made an altogether different decision in his team’s 5-3 quarter final penalty shoot-out win over Poland at Euro 2016, in that he opted to lead by example in hitting Portugal’s first penalty which he scored to help the Selecao progress to their fifth European Championship semi-final.
Strengthening a fine European Championship record
In addition to their 1984, 2000, 2004, 2012 and 2016 European Championship campaigns, Portugal have played in two other finals, making the quarter finals on both occasions.
The first of those was in 1996, when they lost 1-0 to the Czech Republic, with the winning goal being a sublime scooped finished by Karel Pobrosky. Portugal made their other quarter final appearance at Euro 2008, when they lost an enthralling encounter 3-2 to Germany.
Five of the Portuguese players – Ricardo Carvalho, Joao Moutinho, Nani, Pepe and Cristiano Ronaldo – who featured in that game are also key members of the country’s current squad.
As such the quintet, along with the rest of their team mates and coach Santos are making a fine effort of strengthening Portugal’s excellent European Championship record in France, as they now prepare for a Euro 2016 semi-final against Wales.