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Portugal Euro 2020 preview - prediction, fixtures, squad, star player

Ahead of Euro 2020, Sports Mole assesses the chances of a Portugal side looking to win the competition for a second time in succession.

Portugal will be bidding to win the European Championship for the second time in succession when they take to the field for this summer's competition.

Fernando Santos's side are the holders of the trophy, having triumphed at Euro 2016, beating hosts France 1-0 in the final courtesy of an extra-time effort from Eder.

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring their second goal with Ruben Dias, Bruno Fernandes, Pepe and teammates on June 9, 2021© Reuters

Five years on, Portugal are again being tipped to make a huge impression in the tournament, but they must first focus on negotiating comfortably the toughest group at Euro 2020.

Fifth in the FIFA rankings and boasting some of the finest players in world football, A Selecao seemingly have the perfect mixture of youth and experience heading into the competition.

Here, Sports Mole takes an in-depth look at Portugal ahead of Euro 2020.


GROUP

As mentioned, Portugal are a part of the toughest section at Euro 2020, having been placed in Group F alongside Hungary, France and Germany.

Euros Group F

There is simply no downplaying the importance of Portugal's group opener against Hungary on June 15, as a victory would place them in an excellent position ahead of their two toughest fixtures in the section.

Germany will be their opponents in Munich on June 19, before taking on the world champions and tournament favourites France in Budapest on June 23.

PORTUGAL FIXTURES

June 15: Hungary vs. Portugal (6pm, Puskas Arena, Budapest)
June 19: Portugal vs. Germany (6pm, Allianz Arena, Munich)
June 23: Portugal vs. France (9pm, Puskas Arena, Budapest)


HOW THEY QUALIFIED

Portugal did not have it all their own way during qualification for this summer's tournament, ultimately finishing second behind Ukraine in Group B, picking up 17 points from their eight matches.

Santos's side recorded five wins, two draws and one defeat, scoring 22 times and conceding six, with their loss occurring away to Ukraine in October 2019.

Portugal players celebrate scoring in the match that secured their place at Euro 2020, in November 2019© Reuters

The defeat in Kiev will have acted as a warning to Portugal heading into this summer's competition, but they did end their qualification campaign with a 6-0 win over Lithuania and a 2-0 success away to Luxembourg.

The Iberian nation won seven of their eight qualification fixtures for Euro 2016, meaning that they might not enter Euro 2020 with the same level of confidence considering that they finished second in Group B.

A total of 22 goals in eight matches is still an impressive record, though, and it would be fair to assume that Santos's team will be among the goals in the tournament due to their excellent attacking players.


RECENT FORM

Portugal have played five times in 2021 and have recorded three victories, including wins against Azerbaijan and Luxembourg in their 2022 World Cup qualification section.

Santos's side also drew 2-2 with Serbia at the end of March and sit top of Group A, level on points with second-placed Serbia ahead of their next World Cup qualifier against the Republic of Ireland in September.

Portugal's Joao Cancelo celebrates scoring against Israel on June 9, 2021© Reuters

Portugal played out a goalless draw with Spain in a friendly on June 4, meanwhile, before recording a 4-0 success over Israel in their final warm-up game for Euro 2020 on Wednesday night.

Bruno Fernandes scored twice in Lisbon, while Cristiano Ronaldo and Joao Cancelo were also on the scoresheet in what was a strong performance from the reigning European champions.

Portugal are now unbeaten in their last six matches since a 1-0 defeat to France in the UEFA Nations League, while they have won six of their last nine fixtures in all competitions.


SQUAD

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo with teammates as they line up before the match on June 9, 2021© Reuters

Goalkeepers: Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Rui Patricio (Wolves), Rui Silva (Granada)

Defenders: Joao Cancelo (Manchester City), Ruben Dias (Manchester City), Jose Fonte (Lille), Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund), Nuno Mendes (Sporting Lisbon), Pepe (Porto), Nelson Semedo (Wolves)

Midfielders: William Carvalho (Real Betis), Danilo (Paris Saint-Germain), Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United), Goncalo Guedes (Valencia), Joao Moutinho (Wolves), Ruben Neves (Wolves), Sergio Oliveira (Porto), Joao Palhinha (Sporting Lisbon), Pote (Sporting Lisbon), Renato Sanches (Lille), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City)

Forwards: Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid), Diogo Jota (Liverpool), Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus), Andre Silva (Eintracht Frankfurt), Rafa Silva (Benfica)


STAR PLAYER - Cristiano Ronaldo

Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo pictured on June 9, 2021© Reuters

Portugal's squad is incredibly talented, especially in the forward positions, but there is absolutely no question that Ronaldo remains the star of the show for the national team.

Ronaldo might not have had the best of seasons for Juventus in terms of the overall picture, but he still scored 36 times in 44 appearances in all competitions, showing that he is still one of the best goalscorers in world football at the age of 36.

The attacker's record for Portugal is staggering, finding the back of the net on 104 occasions in 175 appearances, and he is chasing down Ali Daei's record of 109 international goals.

Ronaldo has featured on 21 occasions in the European Championship, scoring nine times and providing eight assists, including three goals and three assists at Euro 2016.

The former Sporting Lisbon youngster was also in stunning form during qualification for this tournament, scoring 11 times in eight appearances, including four against Lithuania in October 2019.


MANAGER - Fernando Santos

Portugal's head coach Fernando Santos reacts on June 9, 2021© Reuters

Santos has been in charge of the Portuguese national team since 2014, replacing Paulo Bento, and the 66-year-old will be looking to secure a third major title at the helm.

The former Benfica youngster has an impressive record in charge of Portugal, winning 52, drawing 20 and losing just 12 of his 84 matches, and he has delivered silverware on two separate occasions.

Indeed, Santos led the Iberian nation to the European Championship title in 2016 before winning the UEFA Nations League in 2019, beating the Netherlands in the final of the competition.

Santos, who has managed Porto, Sporting Lisbon and Benfica at club level, has a close relationship with Ronaldo and knows what it takes to be successful at this level of football.

The Portuguese has interestingly selected a squad which is midfield-heavy, and it will be fascinating to see how the head coach sets his side up, particularly against Germany and France.


EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP RECORD

Best finish: Winners (2016)

Portugal players celebrate winning Euro 2016 on July 10, 2016© Reuters

As mentioned on a number of occasions, Portugal are the holders of the European Championship trophy courtesy of their 1-0 victory over France in the 2016 final.

The Iberian nation incredibly did not win a single game in the group stages of Euro 2016, drawing all three of their matches, but they managed to qualify despite finishing third in Group F behind Hungary and Iceland.

Portugal overcame Croatia in extra-time before beating Poland on penalties to advance to the semi-finals, where they recorded a 2-0 victory over Wales to set up the clash with France.

A Selecao have a strong overall record in the European Championships, reaching the semi-finals in 1984, 2000 and 2012, while they were present in the quarter-finals of Euro 1996 and Euro 2008.

Portugal were runners-up at Euro 2004 on home soil, meanwhile, surprisingly losing 1-0 to Greece in the final; they will fancy their chances of making another strong play for the crown this summer but must first focus on ensuring progression from an incredibly tough section.


PREDICTION

Portugal must be taken extremely seriously this summer, with their record in the competition speaking for itself. Group F is very tough, but we fancy them to progress through the section in second spot behind France before beating England and Spain in the round of 16 and quarter-finals respectively to make the semi-finals.

Germany could potentially be waiting in then final four, and we would expect Santos's team to overcome the Germans to set up a clash with France in the final before ultimately finishing as runners-up, with Didier Deschamps's side very much the team to beat this summer.

VERDICT: Runners-up

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