The nearly twenty years that followed have seen Portugal progress to two semi-finals and one final, which led many to believe the side would finally be able to be a member of the elite club of European powerhouses. Boasting one of the world's two best players in Cristiano Ronaldo certainly didn't hurt matters; the future looked rosy.
What those handpicked stats hide is that Portugal are usually terrible when it comes to World Cups. In 1986, Portugal defeated England 1-0 (the start of another trend) but crashed out after losing to Poland and Morocco, amidst disputes over bonuses and scandals involving prostitution. The tournament yielded bruised egos, one fired coach and a few banned players. In 2002, there were again squabbles over monetary compensation, poor managing choices and seemingly endless shopping sprees (besides defeats against South Korea and the United States). The tournament yielded bruised egos, one fired coach and a few banned players.
- Those dreaded World Cups
|Luís Figo watches Landon Donovan's celebration at the 2002 World Cup.|
Photo by Telegraph.co.uk
Only in 2006 did Portugal show up and manage to actually look good (the fact that the competition was played on European soil should not be deemed a random factor), reaching the semi-finals. However, it should be noted that the two opponents Portugal overcame to play Germany in the semi-finals were England and the Netherlands, the only two top teams Portugal have consistently beaten over the past 20 years. Against Germany, France, Spain or Italy, the track record is less than impressive.
One of the unheralded advantages of Euros is that if one team qualifies from the group stages, they immediately earn bragging rights about reaching a competition's quarter-finals. If the draw is favourable on top of that, players, coaches and directors (as well as supporters) might even go as far as saying that they've reached the semis.
- Those happy Euros
In 1996, Portugal were eliminated by Karel Poborsky's (who would later play for Benfica) expertly taken lob in the quarter-finals. For a nation that had remained absent from tournament finals for so long, it was an honourable display. In 2000, the feared France put the Portuguese out of the tournament at the semi-finals with the penalty that spurred so much controversy throughout the nation (Turkey were the quarter-final opponents).
|A tearful 19-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo will be out|
to make sure such moments don't happen once again.
Photo by Goal.com
The 2004 history is well known, of course, but it hides the fact that the opponents that Portugal defeated were precisely England and the Netherlands - the two teams that have become as close to automatic knock-out wins as possible for the Portuguese side. In 2008, Portugal crashed out against Germany (no coincidences there, then) in the quarter-finals and 2012 saw them being eliminated in the semis via penalty shoot-out at the hands - and feet - of Spain, after losing to Germany once again in the competition's first match. The team the Portuguese had beaten to reach the semi-finals was the Czech Republic.