Portugal’s Journey at Euro 2020

The defending champions Portugal came into Euro 2020 on a high. Boasting one of the best attacking lineups of any European nation at the tournament, they were among the favourites to clinch Europe’s most prestigious national trophy, despite being in group F, a group which comprised of current World Champions France as well as Europe’s most successful footballing nation, Germany. It was eventually dubbed the group of death and that promise definitely didn’t disappoint.


Portugal started their title defence against the Hungarians, a team which they failed to defeat on their way to the title in 2016.

It started as a rather cagey affair as the boys from Budapest, though on an 11 game unbeatable run, chose to defend and hit the Portuguese on the counter.

It all worked up until the 85th minute, when super-sub Rafa Silva was able to carve a way out for the Portuguese in the very compact defensive side set up by Italian tactician Marco Rossi.

The input of Rafa Silva appeared to be a master stroke by Fernando Santos, as he ended the game with 2 assists as well as winning a penalty which Cristiano Ronaldo converted, hence setting up the defending champions for a perfect start.

Read full match recap!


In their second match, the Portuguese traveled to the Football Arena in Munich to face a Germany side who had their backs against the wall. Criticism filled the German air after their opening fixture loss against France, just a few days before.

The game started on a high, as the Germans saw their first goal disallowed by VAR, when Robin Gosens was adjudged to be slightly offside in the build up.

Things quickly turned around for the Portuguese, and a very swift counter attack led by their all-time leading goal-scorer Cristiano Ronaldo, sent Santos’ team into the lead. It appeared like the Portuguese’s never-ending nightmare of not being able to defeat the Germans in a major tournament was gradually coming to an end. 

But some clumsy defending and a pair of own-goals from Ruben Dias and Raphael Guerrero all but cost the Portuguese the game, as the Germans eventually came from behind to wrap up the match 4-2. Hence putting an end to their bad form. Although they lost, they still had a thing or two to cheer about, as Renato Sanches performed admirably from the bench for the second match in a row.

Read full match recap!


Heading into their third game, the Portuguese knew they had to pick up at least a point to assure their qualification from the ‘Group of Death‘. It was a match filled with high stakes and grave mistakes, with both sides looking to prove their worth as the supposed best in the world. Being a rematch of the Euro 2016 final also raised the stakes, and gave both teams an extra edge to play for.

In the first half, Renato Sanches and Joao Moutinho dominated an incredible midfield pairing of N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba. Their performance in midfield saw Portugal gain some level of control and eventually led to the goal from a Moutinho free kick, where Danilo Pereira was punched in the face by Hugo Lloris. Unfortunately for the French, Cristiano Ronaldo rarely misses from the spot, and this time was no different.

But unfortunately for the Portuguese, their lead lasted just fifteen minutes before 15 minutes as what referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz made a dodgy, questionable decision to award France a penalty after a bit of embellishment from Kylian Mbappe on Nelson’s Semedo’s shoulder. Karim Benzema took advantage and dispatched the penalty, leveling the match at 1-1 before the halftime break. The second half then needed just 82 seconds to spark into life. Karim Benzema completed his brace after latching onto a glorious through pass from Paul Pogba.

At this point the Portuguese were on the brink of elimination, as the result Munich wasn’t in their favor. But as expected, Cristiano Ronaldo came up clutch again for Fernando Santos’ side after he forced a penalty off Benjamin Pavard’s understudy Jules Kounde. Again, Ronaldo doesn’t miss from the spot, and the Portuguese were back on track to head into the Round of 16.

With 4 points from a possible 9 available in the Group of Death, the defending champions were through to the next round.


The Round of 16 tie against Belgium, expected to be a cracker, was quite disappointing as it appeared only the Portuguese came to the party. Up until the 42nd minute, Portugal were in control to clinch the win. That is until Borussia Dortmund‘s Thorgan Hazard sent Belgium into the lead with a thumping, curving strike out of nowhere. Aided by the wind, the swerve on the ball was one Rui Patricio couldn’t react to in time. But even then, the second half continued to be all about the Portuguese. Raphael Guerreiro had a great chance to score but found the post instead, and Thibaut Courtois came up with a few excellent saves to keep Santos’ team out.

It appeared to be a day of ill luck for the Portuguese, as everything they threw at the Belgians was successfully repelled. The final blast of Felix Brych’s whistle saw the Portuguese title defense come to an end. It was a knock out punch that saw many of the Portuguese players break down in tears, and certainly more broken hearts from Portuguese natives and supporters around the world.


Though they may have been knocked out prematurely, Fernando Santos’ team will definitely will bow out with their heads high. Players like Renato Sanches, Diogo Dalot and Joao Palhinha bring much promise for the future, as do even bigger stars like Ruben Dias, Bruno Fernandes and Diogo Jota. It is likely that Pepe and Cristiano Ronaldo have played in their last ever major tournament, but the team have many young stars coming through the ranks that at the very least can try to provide two for the price of one in replacing them.

Portugal will however want to do better in 2022, as they set their sights now on the World Cup in Qatar.

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