Defensive issues and the Group of Death: Big Challenge for Portugal

Portugal enters the Euro 2020 tournament – to be played in the summer of 2021, just to be clear—as the current trophy holders after winning their first ever major international competition at 2016’s Euro tourney. As per usual, Portugal’s chances will largely ride on Cristiano Ronaldo’s shoulders, though he does have a capable sidekick in Bruno Fernandes this time around.

Though they haven’t finished higher than fourth in a World Cup since they earned the bronze in 1966, Portugal has been in the mix for the Euro Championships pretty much every four years, falling just short on more than one occasion.

In 1996 they made it to the quarter-finals and finished fifth, in 2000 they finished third, and in 2004 when they were hosting they made it all the way to the Final only to fall to the Greeks as the enormous favorites. In 2012, they finished third once again before finally getting over the hump in 2016 when they beat the French in the Final.

The Portuguese have certainly not been infallible since raising the Euro trophy in 2016, finishing second in their Euro qualifying group behind Ukraine thanks to a draw with Serbia and a draw and a loss to the Ukrainians during the group stage.

They have been better more recently, having won seven of their past 11 international fixtures. They have had trouble with the bigger teams, however, drawing and losing to France in UEFA Nations League while also drawing to Spain and Serbia.

Their strength is clearly in the front half of their squad where Bruno Fernandes is perfectly situated to create many, many chances for the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Diogo Jota, two attacking players that play for some of the best clubs in Europe. The back end for A Selecao is where the real issue lies. They have a few decent defensive players, but no one with the level of experience and consistency that you’d want as the spine of your side.

In between the woodwork they’ve got problems too, with regular keeper Rui Patricio dealing with a serious head injury that has left his status uncertain for the tourney. Behind him there are several possible options, none of which play for top European clubs and none of whom have more than a baker’s dozen international caps to their names.

Those issues at the back could prove troublesome for the Portuguese considering the group they’ve found themselves in for this summer’s competition. Group F has been dubbed the Group of Death because it has the Euro holders, Portugal, the World Cup holders, France, and a pretty darn good German side as well.

The French should be everyone’s favorite to win this summer with the form that their top striker and next ‘Best Player in the World,’ Kylian Mbappe has been in lately. He will cause the Portuguese a lot of problems, as will guys like Serge Gnabry from Germany.

We think that Portugal is a good bet to emerge from the group stage along with the French and the Germans, but that’s about as far as they’ll go, so steer clear of their +800 odds (888sport) to win the whole thing. Their +300 odds to win their division aren’t very attractive either, though Ronaldo is always a good shot to win top goalscorer honors.

Portugal Schedule – Group F
June 15Hungary vs PortugalPuskás Aréna
June 19Portugal vs GermanyAllianz Arena
June 23Portugal vs FrancePuskás Aréna
Portugal – European Championships
Best ResultWinner (2016)
Goal Difference49-31

Alex is an alumnus of Ryerson University's RTA Sport Media program, a contributing NHL, NBA, and MLB writer in the team. He has been writing on sports, betting, and fantasy contests for several years, including pitstops as an NFL Editor for theScore and as one of the lead NBA news writers for fantasy sports site FantasyPros. As a lifelong athlete, bettor, and sports fan, Alex is uniquely qualified to help you reach the sports betting success that you've always dreamed of and your wife never believed you could achieve.