When did Portugal win the World Cup?

Portuguese national soccer team

Portugal's national soccer team is one of the best in the world, but has rarely been able to meet expectations at major tournaments. It was not until the EM 2016 in France that the »Seleção Portuguesa de Futebol« finally won the long-awaited title.
The Portuguese national soccer team at the Euro 2016 in France (Marco Iacobucci EPP / Shutterstock.com)

Achievements, titles & famous players

For a long time Portugal was not granted a title at major football tournaments. Mostly started as a secret favorite, the Portuguese often failed - especially at world championships - because of their own expectations.

There has never been a shortage of great players: Eusébio, Luís Figo, Cristiano Ronaldo & Co. were and still are among the greatest footballers of their generations.

When almost no one believed in success anymore, the Portuguese national team finally had the big hit at the European Football Championship in 2016. In the final, hosts France were defeated 1-0 after extra time.


History of the Portuguese national football team

Portugal's first international match took place on December 18, 1921 in Madrid against Spain. The game was lost 3-1 and was the start of a special rivalry between the two neighbors. The first goal for Portugal was scored by a certain Alberto Augusto with a hand penalty.

In the decades that followed, there was not much of Portugal to be seen on the big football stage. You could qualify for a World Cup finals for the first time in 1966. There, however, the Portuguese team immediately landed in third place, which was mainly due to Eusébio's accuracy (9 goals).

In the following years, Portugal could only qualify for another World Cup once (1986). The team has been there every time since 2002.

The process at European Championships is similar. In the final round - which has been held since 1960 - Portugal only took part once until 1996. After that, however, you were always qualified and mostly quite successful.


First international match:

Spain 3-1 Portugal (Madrid, Spain - December 18, 1921)

Highest victories:

Portugal vs. Liechtenstein 8-0 (Lisbon - November 18, 1994)
Portugal vs. Liechtenstein 8-0 (Coimbra - June 9, 1999)
Portugal vs. Liechtenstein 8-0 (Leiria - November 19, 2003)

Biggest defeat:

Portugal vs. England 0:10 (Lisbon - May 25, 1947)

Greatest successes at world championships:

Semi-finals 1966, 2006

Greatest successes at European Championships:

Winner 2016, final 2004, semi-final 1984, 2000, 2002

Portugal at soccer world championships

It was not until 1966 that Portugal entered the world football stage. Led by then superstar Eusébio, the Portuguese national team marched straight to the semi-finals. There they lost 2-1 to eventual world champions England. With a 2-1 win against the Soviet Union in third place, Portugal achieved their best result at a football World Cup to date.

In the preliminary round, Portugal defeated the reigning world champions from Brazil 3-1 and ensured that the World Cup was over for the Brazilians after just three games.

It took Portugal 20 years to qualify again for a World Cup finals. At the 1986 tournament in Mexico, however, it was over after the preliminary round. Although England were defeated 1-0 in the first game, after surprising defeats against Poland (0-1) and Morocco (1-3) they finished last in Group F.

Again many years passed before the next World Cup participation. In 2002 Portugal took part in the World Cup in Japan and South Korea and failed again in the preliminary round.

Four years later at the World Cup in Germany, however, the tournament was much more successful. Three wins in the group stage raised hopes for the first big title. After defeating the Netherlands (1-0) in the round of 16 and England in the quarter-finals on penalties, only one victory was missing before the first World Cup final.

The opponent in the semifinals was the team from France. In Munich, however, the team - with Figo and Ronaldo - lost just 1-0 through a penalty goal by Zinédine Zidane in the first half. The subsequent game for third place was then lost 3-1 against hosts Germany.

The next attempt followed at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. After surviving the preliminary round, including a 0-0 win against Brazil and a 7-0 win against North Korea, the opponent in the round of 16 was Spain. It was also the first duel between the two arch-rivals at a World Cup. In a very close match, the Portuguese lost 1-0 and Spain then became world champions themselves for the first time.

In Brazil 2014, the Portuguese team wanted to have a say again about the title. But the 0: 4 in the first game against Germany already showed that the title shouldn't be anything this time either. With only four points from three games, the Portuguese Seleção retired prematurely as third in the group.

At the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Portugal, the reigning European champion, was eliminated in the round of 16 against Uruguay. The Portuguese won only one out of four games. At the beginning there was a 3: 3 against Spain. Cristiano Ronaldo scored all goals for Portugal.

Portugal at the European Football Championships

Portugal was able to qualify for the finals of the European Championship for the first time in 1984. In France they played in the preliminary round against Spain, Germany and Romania.

The first two games each ended in a draw, so that in the last group game against Romania a victory was absolutely necessary in order to reach the semi-finals. It didn't look like it for a long time, but a goal by Nené in the 81st minute of the game caused huge relief in the Portuguese camp.

In the round of the last four, the opponent was then France. The star ensemble around Michel Platini won the high-class game 3-2 after extra time. It was Platini himself who scored the decisive goal in the 119th minute.

Portugal missed the next two tournaments before they could participate in a European Championship again in 1996. In England, the team led by Luís Figo and Rui Costa survived the preliminary round as group winners and entered the game as the clear favorites in the quarter-finals against the Czech Republic. Despite their superiority and numerous chances, the Portuguese lost the game 1-0 and had to return home disappointed.

The chance to make amends was presented in 2000 at the European Championships in the Netherlands and Belgium. At this tournament too, Portugal was one of the top favorites for the title. The preliminary round was confidently concluded with three wins (including a 3-0 against Germany). In the quarter-finals a 2-0 win against Turkey followed, so that it came to a duel with the reigning world champion France in the semifinals. As in 1984, Portugal lost after extra time (1: 2), this time even by a golden goal.

In 2004 the first major football tournament took place at home in Portugal. New stadiums, a great team and Brazil's world champion coach Luiz Felipe Scolari offered ideal conditions for the long-awaited title. Although the Portuguese team surprisingly lost their opening game with 1: 2 against the outsider from Greece, Portugal were able to finish the preliminary round as first with two wins against Russia (2: 0) and Spain (1: 0). Nobody suspected that one should run into the rebellious Greeks again soon ...

The country was euphoric and the English waited in the quarter-finals. The game at the Estádio da Luz in Lisbon was one of the best of the tournament. After Hélder Postiga saved the Portuguese into extra time with his 2-2 goal in the 85th minute of the game, the penalty shoot-out had to bring the decision. Two missed penalties by England in a missed Portuguese attempt by Rui Costa led to the much-acclaimed Portuguese victory.

In the semifinals in the Estádio José Alvalade XXI (also in Lisbon) there was a duel with the Netherlands. With a deserved 2: 1, Portugal moved into a final of a major tournament for the first time. The then 19-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo scored the 1-0.

To everyone's surprise, the final was Portugal vs. Greece. The Greeks sensationally reached the final with two 1-0 successes against France and the Czech Republic. The experts largely agreed that the big day for Portuguese football has finally come.

Portugal dominated the game and had numerous good opportunities, but the decisive goal was scored by the Greek Angelos Charisteas in the 57th minute. After the game, the disappointment was huge and many wondered if such an opportunity should ever come again.

The 2008 tournament in Austria and Switzerland was already in the quarter-finals. In the game against Germany (2: 3) Portugal even entered the game as a slight favorite, but had to run after a two-goal deficit after just 26 minutes. In the end, it was only enough for the connecting gate and for Ronaldo and Co. the dream of the European Championship was again prematurely broken.

Four years later in Ukraine and Poland it should be really dramatic again. The first game was lost again to Germany (0: 1), but with two narrow wins against Denmark (3: 2) and the Netherlands (2: 1) Portugal reached the quarter-finals. There Cristiano Ronaldo scored his team with his goal in the semifinals.

In Donetsk you met again on the permanent rivals from Spain, who were reigning world and European champions at that time. In a close game in which Portugal focused primarily on defending, the penalty shoot-out was the deciding factor. João Moutinho and Bruno Alves forgave their attempts and added another tragic chapter to their football history for Portugal.

In France 2016 nobody really had Portugal on their minds. The performance at the World Cup two years earlier in Brazil was too weak. The preliminary round also agreed with the experts. There were only three draws against Iceland, Austria and Hungary after the preliminary round and it was only thanks to the new tournament mode that Portugal was able to assert itself as one of the best third in the group.

In the round of 16 they struggled to a narrow 1-0 win after extra time against Croatia. Quaresma scored the "golden goal" in the 117th minute of the game. The quarter-finals were not a treat for football fans either. Against the favored Poles, the penalty shoot-out had to decide again and this time the Portuguese had the better end for themselves.

Suddenly Portugal were in the semi-finals and nobody really knew how that could happen. The opponent there was the surprise team from Wales. The Portuguese team played their best game, winning 2-0 with goals from Ronaldo and Nani.

In the final in Paris, like in 1984, there was another duel with hosts France. The French were the clear favorites after beating world champions Germany 2-0 in the semi-finals. The game started badly for Portugal when Cristiano Ronaldo was injured and had to be replaced after 25 minutes.

The Portuguese held up bravely and saved themselves into overtime with luck and skill. Now Portugal began to play offensively and promptly rewarded themselves with Éder's 1-0 (109th). The team of coach Fernando Santos defended the result until the end and the Portuguese national soccer team celebrated their first major triumph.

The duels against arch rivals Spain

The record against Spain in international matches does not read well. In 39 games there have been 8 wins, 14 draws and 17 defeats so far, with a goal difference of 47:78. The record looks even worse in important games.

In the qualifications for the World Championships in 1934 and 1952, Portugal failed in each case because of its neighbors. In 1933 they even lost 9-0.

The first game of both nations in an important tournament did not take place until 1984. At the EM in France they met in the preliminary rounds. The game ended 1-1.

It was 20 years before the next meeting at a European football championship. At the 2004 home European championships, Portugal also prevailed 1-0 in the preliminary round.

The first World Cup game took place in South Africa in 2010. The later world champion from Spain kept the upper hand 1-0. The Spaniards were also able to prevail at the EM 2012. In the end it was 2: 4 after penalties.

At the 2018 World Cup in Russia, both teams met in the preliminary round. After a great game they parted with a 3-3 draw.

Portugal's miserable record against Germany

Portugal has mostly drawn the short straw at important tournaments against Germany. Only three wins out of 18 games speak for themselves. Only against England do Portugal have a similarly bad record.

The two met for the first time at Portugal's European Championship premiere in 1984. The 0-0 in the preliminary round brought the Portuguese more in the end and they even made it to the semi-finals.

In 2000 there was even a 3-0 victory against the German team, which at that time was knocked out after the preliminary rounds. In the years that followed, however, there was nothing left for Portugal to win against Germany.

At the 2006 World Cup they lost the (unimportant) game for place with 1: 3, at the EM 2008 Germany won the quarter-finals 3: 2 and also at the EM 2012 the winner was Germany (0: 1 in the preliminary round).

In 2014 at the World Cup in Brazil, it even struck a 4-0 swat against the eventual world champion in the preliminary round.

Famous Portuguese internationals

The three most famous Portuguese footballers are Eusébio, Luís Figo and Cristiano Rondaldo.

Eusébio was the face of Benfica Lisbon in the 1960s. He played for the club for 15 years and was, among other things, ten times champion, five times cup winner and once winner of the European Cup. In the national jersey he shot Portugal in 1966 with nine goals almost alone to third place.

He died with great sympathy on January 5, 2014. In Portugal, a three-day state mourning was declared. His remains rest in the National Pantheon in the Santa Engrácia Church in Lisbon.

Luís Figo played for Sporting Lisbon at a young age and moved to FC Barcelona in 1995. He also played for Real Madrid, where he won the Champions League in 2002, and for Inter Milan.

Figo made 127 games for the national team. His greatest achievement was reaching the final at the 2004 European Championships in his own country. Figo has been running a bar in Vilamoura in the Algarve since 1998 - Café Sete.

The greatest footballer in Portugal is without a doubt Cristiano Ronaldo - CR7. The multiple world footballer and Champions League winner has finally achieved the status of national saint with the European title in 2016.

Record player

  1. Cristiano Ronaldo 160 (August 20, 2003 - present)
  2. Luís Figo 127 (October 12, 1991 - July 8, 2006)
  3. João Moutinho 117 (August 17, 2005 - present)
  4. Nani 112 (September 1, 2006 - July 2, 2017)
  5. Fernando Couto 110 (December 19, 1990 - June 30, 2004)

Record goal scorers

  1. Cristiano Ronaldo 93 (August 20, 2003 - present)
  2. Pauleta 47 (August 20, 1997 - July 8, 2006)
  3. Eusébio 41 (October 8, 1961 - October 13, 1973)
  4. Luís Figo 32 (October 12, 1991 - July 8, 2006)
  5. Nuno Gomes 29 (January 24, 1996 - October 11, 2011)

Portugal at the 2018 World Cup in Russia

At the World Cup in Russia (June 14 to July 15, 2018) Portugal met in Group B against Spain, Morocco and Iran. The round of 16 was reached without a defeat. However, with a late conceding goal in their last game against Iran, Portugal missed out on winning the group.

All group B games at a glance

Friday, June 15, 2018, 6:00 p.m. (5:00 p.m. CEST) in Saint Petersburg
MoroccoIran0:1 (0:0)
Friday, June 15, 2018, 9:00 p.m. (8:00 p.m. CEST) in Sochi
PortugalSpain3:3 (2:1)
Wed., June 20, 2018, 3:00 p.m. (2:00 p.m. CEST) in Moscow (Luschniki Olympic Stadium)
PortugalMorocco1:0 (1:0)
Wed., June 20, 2018, 9:00 p.m. (8:00 p.m. CEST) in Kazan
IranSpain0:1 (0:0)
Mon., June 25, 2018, 9:00 p.m. (8:00 p.m. CEST) in Saransk
IranPortugal1:1 (0:1)
Mon., June 25, 2018, 8:00 p.m. (CEST) in Kaliningrad
SpainMorocco2:2 (2:2)

Lost to Uruguay

In the round of 16, the opponent was then Uruguay. The team from South America ended all the title dreams of Ronaldo & Co. with a 2-1 win. After Edison Cavani had headed Uruguay in the 7th minute of the game, Portugal had no idea in front of the opposing goal for a long time. In the 55th minute, however, it was defender Pepe who scored the 1-1 after a corner kick. The Portuguese were now superior, but conceded only seven minutes later, after a counterattack, the 1: 2. The goal for Uruguay was scored again by Cavani. Portugal tried everything in the final minutes, but Uruguay's defense was secure. Despite 20: 5 shots on goal for the Portuguese team, the knockout point after 90 minutes was clear. A bitter disappointment for the reigning European champion.

Book recommendation