As we have said in many of our Euros country profiles, several of the early tournaments, in fact all those from 1960 to 1976 inclusive (five tournaments) featured just four teams in the finals. Of course, that made reaching the tournament-proper very difficult. Even so, Portugal may feel a little disappointed that they appeared in just one European Championship until UEFA Euro 1996 in England.
Things have certainly improved quite dramatically since then though. They have been European regulars ever since, finishing in the top four in four of the last five tournaments. Might a certain Cristiano Ronaldo have a little something to do with that?! After a couple of near misses, the Portuguese finally became European champions in 2016, beating tournament hosts France in the Euro 2016 final. The Lionel Messi v Ronaldo debate may well never be settled but in terms of major tournament success, it’s CR7 1-0 Messi.
When Did Portugal Last Win the Euros?
Portugal’s one and only European Championship success came in France in 2016.
UEFA European Championship Results
In the pre-Ronaldo era with what many then considered a Golden Generation, Portugal reached the semi finals in 2000. They boasted players such as Luis Figo, Rui Costa, Joao Pinto, Fernando Couto and had Vitor Baia in goals, but eventually lost out to France in extra time in the last four.
Four years later, the Portuguese were one of the favourites on home soil, and Luiz Felipe Scolari’s men went all the way to the final. Unfortunately for them, surprise winners Greece stood in their way, beating Portugal 1-0 in Lisbon and really upsetting the odds. In a strange tournament the dour Greeks were defensively tough, almost impossible to score against and defied odds of 150/1 to break home hearts.
Portugal had to wait until 2016 for their next final appearance. They made no mistake this time, winning a narrow showpiece against France in Saint-Denis. It was role reversal this time as they were the underdogs playing the hosts but they clung on to win their one and only major tournament.
|Year||Host||Stage of Elimination (Position)||Manager||Top Scorer|
|2020||Europe||Round of 16 (10th)||Paulo Bento||Cristiano Ronaldo (5)|
|2016||France||Winners (1st)||Fernando Santos||Cristiano Ronaldo (3) & Nani (3)|
|2012||Poland & Ukraine||Semi-finals (3rd)||Paulo Bento||Cristiano Ronaldo (3)|
|2008||Austria & Switzerland||Quarter-final (7th)||Luiz Felipe Scolari||Cristiano Ronaldo (1), Deco (1), Nuno Gomes (1), Raul Meireles (1), Pepe (1), Helder Postiga (1), Ricardo Quaresma (1)|
|2004||Portugal||Final (2nd)||Luiz Felipe Scolari||Cristiano Ronaldo (2), Rui Costa (2) & Maniche (2)|
|2000||Belgium & Netherlands||Semi-final (4th)||Humberto Coelho||Nuno Gomes (4)|
|1996||England||Quarter-final (5th)||Antonio Oliveira||Fernando Couto (1), Domingos (1), Luis Figo (1), Joao Pinto (1) & Sa Pinto (1)|
|1984||France||Semi-final (3rd)||Fernando Cabrita||Rui Jordao (2)|
Times Portugal Won the Euros
Portugal went close on a couple of occasions, but they finally became kings of Europe in a thrilling tournament in France in 2016. Led by the experienced Fernando Santos, the Portugal national team – who are known as Os Navegadores (The Navigators) – beat the tournament hosts in a tight final at the Stade de France.
Euro 2016 – Portuguese Beat France on French Soil
Despite picking up just three points in Group F, Portugal made it through to the Round of 16 without winning a game. Santos’ side drew 1-1 with Iceland in Saint-Etienne in their first fixture, which they followed up with a drab 0-0 draw with Austria in Paris. Portugal were then involved in a six-goal thriller with Hungary, which was enough to put them through to the knockouts as one of best third-place teams. Having finished behind unheralded Icelandic and Hungarian teams few expected them to go all the way.
However, they then edged through a tight Round of 16 fixture with a well-fancied Croatia at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, with Ricardo Quaresma’s goal three minutes before penalties putting them through to the last four. The Portuguese then got the better of a dogged and Gareth Bale-inspired Wales side in Lyon, setting up a final tie with the hosts.
Portugal were the big underdogs against France, even more so when talisman Ronaldo was stretchered off after just eight minutes. Proving that football always has been and always will be a team game where even the greats have to rely on 10 other players, Portugal somehow delivered the goods. They hung in there, taking the final to extra time and seemingly to penalties given the lack of chances in the match.
As time was running out, up stepped Eder – who flopped at Swansea City in the Premier League – to score the winner in the 109th minute. Eder cut inside and struck home a sweet drive from around 25 yards, low to the keeper’s right to give Portugal their first European trophy.
Portugal have always progressed past the group stage and given they are a nation of just 10m their achievements and consistency in this competition are quite remarkable. Four years before winning the tournament in France, the Portuguese looked strong at Euro 2012. Portugal followed Germany through to the last eight before edging past Czech Republic in Warsaw. However, they missed out on the final after losing on penalties to eventual winners Spain in the semis. Portugal reached the final on home turf in 2004, but they were beaten by champions Greece on two occasions (the first group game and the final).
Times Portugal Didn’t Qualify For the Euros
Portugal featured in just one of the first nine European Championship finals. After finishing third in France in 1984, their next appearance was not until Euro ’96 in England. Since then, the Portuguese have featured in every European Championship tournament, finishing no lower than seventh.
|1988||West Germany||Julio Cernadas Pereira||8||2||4||2|
|1976||Yugoslavia||Jose Maria Pedroto||6||2||3||1|
|1972||Belgium||Jose Gomes da Silva||6||3||1||2|
|1968||Italy||Jose Gomes da Silva||6||2||2||2|
|1964||Spain||Jose Maria Antunes||3||1||0||2|
|1960||France||Jose Maria Antunes||4||3||0||1|
Compared to many teams (yes England, we’re looking at you!) and especially considering their small population (they are similar in size to Sweden, Hungary and Belarus and smaller than Greece, Belgium and Netherlands), it could be argued that Portugal have never really had a terrible Euros.
Finishing seventh (using UEFA’s strange ranking system) in 2008 may have been a disappointment given they had Ronaldo at his peak. But they topped their group and only lost a thrilling quarter 3-2 to Germany, eventual finalists. So, strange and odd and controversial as it will seem, we’re going to say their worst Euros was 2016 when they won!
You heard it here first, and probably only here! But looking back they finished third in a weak group without winning a game. In fact, in the entire tournament they won just a single match inside 90 minutes. They needed extra time to get past Croatia and France, and penalties to see off Poland, with Wales the only genuine “win”.