Portugal plodding towards Euro 2016 success despite winless campaign
Lee Gormley | July 1, 2016
Portugal edging closer to success
Despite having so far gone through their Euro 2016 campaign without recording a single win in 90 minutes from five outings, Portugal are still on course for success on French soil after downing Poland in a quarter-final penalty shoot-out.
Fernando Santos’ side earned a 5-3 spot-kick victory over the Poles following yet another 1-1 stalemate during normal time in Marseille, securing the nation’s fourth appearance in the semis of this competition in five tournaments.
An in-form Ricardo Quaresma dispatched the decisive strike from 12 yards after Jakub Blaszczykowski’s attempt was impressively thwarted by Rui Patricio, with teenager Renato Sanches having netted the equaliser in normal time, cancelling out a Robert Lewandowski opener.
For this gritty Portuguese outfit, a semi showdown with either final Home Nation standing Wales or a strong Belgium side awaits on Wednesday night, though Santos’ men will hold no fear and are held at 9/2 with Coral to go all the way to clinch success.
Winless but still going strong
Portugal have been involved in some of the dullest games of the tournament to date this summer, in particular their 1-0 extra-time triumph over a talented Croatia roster in the last 16, with Quaresma again having been the hero on that occasion.
They were, however, involved in a thrilling 3-3 final Group F match-up with Hungary, in which they narrowly booked their spot in the knockout stage by finishing a surprise third in their standings.
That result was one of three group draws, as they made the most of the new tournament system to progress, as well as another eventual goalless stalemate with Croatia and a 1-1 holding of Poland.
Such a run means this solid Portuguese set-up have plodded their way to the final four without winning a game in 90 minutes, becoming the first side ever in the European Championship to reach this stage despite not recording a victory.
Their winless run to the semis has saw Portugal edge closer to Paraguay’s Copa America feat from 2011 too, with the South American outfit having previously rallied through to the final that year without earning a victory in any game at all in 90 minutes (three group draws, two shoot-out wins).
Ronaldo on cusp of “dream” coup
Many fans and opposition sides will see Portugal’s conservative play as a negative outlook in a tournament which started brightly with plenty of goals and attacking action, but Cristiano Ronaldo and co won’t care as long as it works.
Ironically, it was Real Madrid marksman Ronaldo that laid into Iceland for their similar approach after the two nations’ earlier group draw, but the Portugal skipper is focused on realising his dream of lifting a major international trophy with his country regardless of performances.
“The dream is getting closer and anything can happen now. I’m not missing anything [in trophies] and even if my career finished today, I would still feel privileged,” stated the former Manchester United star.
“We’re on the right road”
“But I’ve always said, and I don’t hide it, that I would love to win a title with the national team. We’re on the right road.”
Either a meeting with Real teammate Gareth Bale and Wales or a star-studded Belgium team is on the cards for Ronaldo and co, and the all-time club and country top scorer has compared the Home Nation to Iceland in their gallant run.
“We’ll see who we get now. They are two very good teams,” Ronaldo added. “Wales, like Iceland, have caused a surprise since the start. As for Belgium, they’ve been showing their progress for several years already.”
Ronaldo endured a frustrating 120 minutes against Poland as he hunted down Michel Platini’s record of nine Euros finals goals, missing further great chances to extend his tally, but he will soon have more opportunities and is 7/1 to finish as top scorer in France.
Portugal still have a tough task ahead of them on French turf, with the hosts seen as the 14/5 favourites to prevail in their own backyard and Germany second to them at 3/1 to overcome a stubborn Italy before edging to overall success.
Whether or not the Portuguese’s current defiant approach can see them past the semi-final and beyond remains to be seen but, having reached this point without tasting victory at all, they now hold a great chance to finally end their wait for a maiden major honour in France.