You probably heard the cheers of futebol fans from across the Atlantic. Portugal’s first-ever victory in the 2016 Euro Cup was arguably the nation’s most important victory since King John’s 1385 defeat of the Castilians.
Now Portugal’s national team has its sights set on the FIFA World Cup in 2018. The road to Russia is a long one, however. European teams will fight for spots in the final bracket over the next year or so. Portugal lost its first match against Switzerland on September 6, but fans are still hopeful. Their team endured a first round loss in Euro 2016 and still emerged victorious. (Click here for a schedule of Portugal’s upcoming matches.)
Experiencing futebol with Europe’s proudest fans is yet another reason to visit Portugal! Here’s Portugal.com’s guide on what you need to know to be “in the know” about the Euro Cup victory, the history of soccer in Portugal, and how travelers can get in on the action during a Portuguese vacation.
Worship the 2016 Euro Cup Heroes
Cristiano Ronaldo: Ronaldo was the 2016 national team captain. He is a three time world FIFA player of the year, and global football idol. He began his career at Sporting CP. Later, he played for Manchester United and his current team, Real Madrid. Ronaldo is Portugal’s all-time top goal scorer and a well-known philanthropist.
Renato Sanches: At age 18, he was the youngest Portuguese player to start a game for the national team, beating Ronaldo by a few months. Now, at 19 years old, this powerful midfielder is joining Bayern Munich from Benfica on a 35 million Euro transfer fee. Renato was a key player for the Euro 2016 squad, where he won the “Young Player of the Tournament” prize.
André Gomes: This 23-year-old standout played at Benfica and Valencia before joining Barcelona this summer. He was selected for the national Euro 2016 side and is expected to fill the void left by Rui Costa and Deco.
André Silva: Silva is a 19-year-old FC Porto forward. He is a powerful attacker with sublime soccer skills. In the upcoming 2018 World Cup, Silva will join the national team for the first qualifying games. He will likely fill in the void at center forward, which last belonged to Pauleta.
Meet Portugal’s Futebol Legends
Eusébio: Eusébio is not only o Rei (The King) of Portuguese soccer, but critically acclaimed as one of the best footballers of all time. He has scored 790 goals during his lifetime, and powered Portugal’s third place finish in the 1966 World Cup. Born in Mozambique, a territory of Portugal until 1976, Eusébio played 15 years at Sport Lisboa and Benfica. During his time at Benefica, the team reached the European Champions Cup 5 times and won twice. He received the Ballon d’Or award for European footballer of the year in 1965. Eusébio was runner-up for the same award in 1962 and 1966. He also won the Golden Boot award for top European league scorer in 1968 and 1973.
Luís Figo:Before he retired in 2009, Figo’s extraordinary ability as a winger garnered 127 caps for the Portuguese national team. His record stood until Ronaldo broke it. Like Ronaldo, Figo came up through the ranks of Sporting CP’s academy and senior teams. Later, Figo received record-money transfers to Barcelona and Real Madrid. Luis Figo later ended his career at Inter Milan. He won the 2000 Ballon d’Or and was named 2001 FIFA World Player of the Year. In 2004, he made the FIFA 100 list of the world’s greatest living players.
Learn the History
Introduced to Portugal in 1875, football is now the most popular sport in the country.
Prior to starting 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia qualifiers, Portugal was ranked 6th and will face Switzerland, Hungary and others in its Europe’s Group B matches.
Know the Clubs
There are 18 clubs in Portugal’s Primeira Liga national football league system. Primeira Liga has ranked in the top 5 UEFA national leagues since the 2011-12 season.
The “Big Three” – Benfica (35), Porto (27) and Sporting CP (18) – have won all but two of the national championships. The 2015-16 national champion was Benfica.
See the Action
Watching players on the pitch is one of the most exciting experiences in all of Portugal. Luckily, tickets to matches are not too expensive. Football fans need not fret if no games are on the calendar. Portugal’s major stadiums are among the newest and most beautiful stadiums in all of Europe, and tours are readily available.
Arena da Pedreira: Braga, home to SC Braga, and ranked among the most beautiful stadiums in the world.
Estadio Algarve: Algarve, no home club. Because this stadium has no home club, it is not open for tours. However, visitors to the south of Portugal can sometimes catch a regional or exhibition match on this pitch.