I’m going to let you in on a hidden talent I have– I can correctly identify all the flags of the world. The origins of this talent began in grade 3 when I signed out a book that had every flag in the world (at that time) and a paragraph about each country. I have kept this up as new countries and flags are established seemingly every couple of years.
Anyway, I read that book so much, I began compiling a list of countries I would like to visit based on how their flag looked. Portugal made my top 10 list, so I’ve always followed what’s going on in Portugal throughout the years. Here are a few interesting nuggets about Portugal:
-Half of the “New World” belonged to Portugal: In 1494, the Treaty of Tordesillas was signed which essentially gave Portugal the eastern half of the “New Word”, including Brazil, Africa, and Asia. Speaking of colonialism, they were also the first power to abolish slavery 50 years prior to Spain, France, Britain, etc.
-Portugal has had the same defined borders since 1139, making it the oldest nation-state in Europe. Yet the running joke about Portugal is that it’s a province of Spain.
-The Lisbon-based S.L. Benfica is the world’s most supported football club according to the Guinness Book of World Record.
-Rio de Janeiro (the city in Brazil) was the capital of Portugal for 8 years. Then things went to shit and Portugal lost Brazil. I assume it’s because the Portuguese couldn’t concentrate because of the beauty of Brazilian women, as tWBS illustrated in his Copa America preview.
-Portugal has a long tradition of Fatalism, or Fado. This is an attitude in music, literature and daily speech characterized by melancholy, resignation and a belief in volatile fate. In music, mournful songs about poverty often express this sentiment.
Portugal’s National Soccer team
Coach: Fernando Santos
Nickname: A Selecção or The Cristiano Portugalandos (I may have just come up with this)
Group F: Iceland June 14th at 12pm PST, Austria June 18th at 12pm PST and Hungary June 22nd at 9am PST.
Odds of winning the Euros: 16:1 (Five teams have better odds. One of those teams is oddly enough, England, so, it’s a good value pick!)
Most you should wager on Portugal to win: $50
If you began following soccer over the past 25 years, you would likely be surprised by the fact a powerhouse team like Portugal have never won an international tournament. In the Ronaldo era, they finished 2nd in the 2004 Euros and 3rd in the 2012 Euros. During the “Golden Generation” of the mid 1990s-early 2000s, they finished 5th in 96 and 3rd in the 2000 Euros.
Even in the early 90s when Portugal battled for international soccer supremacy on a biannual basis, they never won an international tournament despite having the likes of Adiaga, Adiaga two, Badiaga, Aruglia, and Pizzoza.
Wait a minute. A fan base who is inherently fatalist and supports a team that is favored to win but comes up short in the Conference finals? And their closest geographical rival has won a championship more than once over the past decade? Holy shit, Portugal is Lesser Footy’s International equivalence of the Andy Reid era Philadelphia Eagles!
Portugal’s manager, Fernando Santos, has a very basic and sound strategy: If you’re not named Cristiano Ronaldo, you’re playing defense and as soon as you get the ball, give it to CR7. As a result, Portugal conceded just five goals and only scored eleven in Euro qualifiers.
The Key to Portugal’s success:
I’m going to let you know another little nugget about myself. I watched a game of Ronaldo’s when he was playing with Portugal club, Sporting (this was before he signed with Man U). He was so good, you could tell he would be something special. So I’ve always checked in on him throughout his career to see what he was up to.
I understand most of you hate him because of the stupid, stupid things he said from his time with Manchester United, and rightfully so. Anyone who used to say he shouldn’t headbutt a ball because it could damage his face, or that people hate him because he’s rich and handsome, deserves to be mocked. But you know what? When you’re considered a God and savior to a country while dating the likes of Letizia Filippi, Gemma Atkinson, Imogen Thomas, and Irina Shayk by the time you were 25, and also while the world tells you that you have the potential to be the greatest soccer player ever, you might have a bit of an ego too. But he has changed.
Around the time he joined Real Madrid and had a son, things started to click for Ronaldo. He’s actually a really cool guy now. There’s no athlete who can come close to his philanthropy. Off the top of my head, he donated close to 100 grand so a 10-year-old fan in need of brain surgery could get said surgery. He donated over $150,000 to fund a cancer centre in Portugal that treated his mother. He donated millions after Nepal had that horrible earthquake. Remember when he met Haidar, the Lebanese child who lost both his parents? Not only will you cry watching that video, but you also just ovulated. Or when he met Zaid, the Syrian child refugee who was tripped by a horrible human being? Or how about when he took to the streets in Madrid to school some unsuspecting citizens? Speaking of schools, he sold his last Golden Boot trophy for close to 2 million dollars and gave the money to Illegally Occupied Gazan schools. Perhaps most charitably, remember when he made Wayne Rooney so good, people thought Rooney was up there in elite talent with Ronaldo and Messi? Classic Cristiano.
He has changed and you should root for him this tournament.
In his press conference after Portugal lost to Greece in the 2004 Euro finals, a 19 year old Ronaldo said something along the lines of, ‘we’ll be back and Portugal will win big tournaments’. At age 31, this is likely Ronaldo’s last chance to win an international championship while in his prime. Ronaldo knows this and will likely play like a man possessed to ensure Portugal wins a championship.
Portugal was given a group so ridiculously easy, it has to be legitimate and not part of some FIFA bribing scandal. Once Portugal sleep walks through this group, they’ll likely get a winnable game against Italy in the round of 16, a winnable match against either England or Russia in the quarterfinals, which brings them to the semi finals, possibly in a match against Spain. With the news surrounding David de Gea lately, and the distractions that goes with that kind of shit storm, Portugal has more than a good shot of beating Spain and making the finals. . .
Or they’ll lose in the conference finals, as is the tradition.