Fifty years after their debut appearance at a major tournament, Portugal finally got their first major international trophy when they lifted the 2016 European Championship in Paris last month.

That first piece of silverware was a long time coming, but the Seleção have been involved in a number of memorable matches over the decades. Below are the top five matches ever played by Portugal’s national football team.

 

 

Number 5: Portugal 2-1 Netherlands (Euro 2012)

Group B at Euro 2012 was without question the Group of Death, with each side (Germany, Netherlands, Portugal and Denmark) ranking in FIFA’s Top 10 at the time. Heading into the final round, any of the four countries could still qualify for the next stage despite Portugal’s opponents, World Cup runners-up Holland, having zero points. And it looked like the Dutch were finally going to start playing to their potential when Rafael Van der Vaart scored in just the 11th minute of the match.

But the Portuguese defence was stubborn from then on, allowing Ronaldo to do what he does best: frustrate and dazzle, twice making stellar runs that resulted in the two goals Portugal needed to win and advance as the second-place team in the group.

 

Number 4: Portugal 3-2 England (Euro 2000)

For England, it was a classic footballing fail that an entire country wanted to forget as soon it was over; for Portugal it was a classic comeback the country will never forget. The opening Euro 2000 match for the two sides, England raced out early to a 2-0 lead in the first 18 minutes.

But twenty minutes later the match was level again thanks to goals from legends Luís Figo and João Pinto. The rest of the match, Portugal played like a team possessed, and it was Nuno Gomes who scored the winner. The historic comeback was indicative of each sides’ fortunes for the rest of the tournament, with England failing to advance past the group stage and Portugal making it all the way to the semis.

As anyone who has followed the Seleção over the years knows, Portugal is a side you never count out, both as a fan or a bettor. Often the underdog in big international matches, Portugal can often punish your heart if you root against them (or reward your bank account if you bet on the right outcome.)

 

Number 3: France 3-2 Portugal (Euro 1984)

Although it didn’t end in victory, Portugal’s Euro 1984 semi-final loss against France was no less an amazing match. Appearing in their first European Championship, Portugal showed massive heart throughout the free-flowing affair. Rui Jordão equalized France’s early lead in the 74th minute, which sent the match into extra time.

Then Jordão was at it again, scoring to give Portugal a 2-1 lead. But it wasn’t meant to be, as France threw almost their entire team forward into the attack, resulting in two French goals in five minutes, signifying the end of Portugal’s special run. However, for their effort, Portugal was now on the world football map.

 

Number 2: Portugal 5-3 North Korea (1966 World Cup)

North Korea was perhaps the surprise of the 1966 World Cup, entering the tournament under a shroud of mystery and as a 1,000:1 underdog. But unexpectedly, they drew their second group stage match against Chile and amazingly defeated Italy 1-0 to advance to the knockout stage against Portugal.

Despite going undefeated in group play, North Korea shut down Portugal in the first half and seemingly locked the game up in the first 25 minutes, going up 3-0. But Eusébio is a legend for a reason, and his four goals that match are part of the reason why. José Augusto added a fifth and the dramatic comeback allowed Portugal to advance to the semis.

 

Number 1: Portugal 1-0 France (Euro 2016 Final)

Heading into the 2016 tournament, four times previously Portugal had made it to the semis or further in the Euros, and four times they had failed to lift the Henri Delaunay Trophy. And multiple times at Euro 2016 it looked like that was going to be the case again, as Portugal’s play in the group stage looked mostly uninspired. After three draws, they were only able to advance due to the new expanded tournament format, having finished in third place in Group F.

But as any champion team does, the Seleção kept finding a way to win, grinding out 1-0 (a.e.t.), 1-1 (5-3 on PKs), and 2-0 wins in the round of 16 (Croatia), quarters (Poland), and semis (Wales). That set them up as big underdogs against hosts France, who had never experienced anything but victory when locking horns with Portugal in competitive play.

Despite losing Ronaldo in the first half, seemingly the sign of certain doom, Portugal once again found the way to get the match to extra time, where substitute Eder became the unlikely legend. Unleashing a shot from 25 yards out, the ball found both the corner of the net and Portugal had won their first major international trophy. It certainly was not Portugal’s most exhilarating performance, but in terms of significance there was no greater moment in the Seleção’s football history.

 

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  • Great list.

    I seem to be lacking Rosario's rose-tinted glasses though because I was never a fan of Ricardo. He was an excellent PK specialist but a poor goalkeeper. I wouldn't hire him to clean Vitor Baia's shoes, but the politics of the Seleccao at that time kept the Porto keeper out of the tournament.

    Ricardo had legendary moments but he is far from a legend. I would argue any of his good grace he gave the Seleccao in the PK's of 2004 disappeared with Greece's goal in the final. Here, as with almost any set piece Ricardo faced, the GK was invisible, out of position and late, costing us the game and the 2004 Euro.

    No offence to you personally Rosario, as I appreciate your comments and viewpoints on this site, but I only think of Ricardo in an unfavourable light. Again, one of the best PK specialists in the game, but far from a legendary goalkeeper in my opinion (not that it's worth anything!). On any set piece, it was like being down a player, he really was that bad. Crosses, was the same issue.

    Cheers.

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  • Guest - Rosario

    Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    @Chris
    Hey Chris, it's all good man ;) I should have said that Ricardo's performance in that particular match was legendary for me, I didn't mean to put him on equal heights with Vitor Baia (or any other goalie great for that matter). All in all that quarter-final has proven to be incredibly memorable (nearly half my life ago and thinking about it still gets my blood pumping), and that is why I feel it should have been mentioned in this article at #5. It's the match that cemented my love for Portugal so yes, I am very biased towards it haha! As much as I enjoyed Portugal beating Oranje in 2012 (I COULD have bashed so many friends if I wanted to, but I only did it if they talked smack about Portugal haha), from a comeback no less, that particular Oranje squad was pathetic. Divided by egos, they played without inspiration and a group stage exit was all that they deserved. Contrast it with the 2004 QF where both England and Portugal were eager to reach the next stage and put up one of the most entertaining Euro matches I've seen to date.

    Just my 2cts of course, it's still a great Top 5 :)

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  • @ Rosario, apologies man, I re-read and realize I came across a little bit "bitchy". I love your comments and enthusiasm for the Seleccao, and you're points are all correct. I just personally cannot stand Ricardo as a person or a goalkeeper. I thought he was generally the worst Portuguese keeper of the modern era who got to start for the Seleccao.

    He was a dick to Baia and generally arrogant in interviews, snubbing fans that showed up to the training sessions at the Euros. If he was a decent gk, I could understand, but since Baia was voted the best goalkeeper in Europe 2 days before the Seleccao for Euro 2004 was announced, is the professional footballer with the most titles in history (record-holder), and just won the Champions League, his omission for somebody of Ricardo's quality is inexcusable.

    That said, Ricardo's moments in the England and Netherlands games are etched in history. He truly was a brilliant PK specialist.

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  • Guest - Roger

    I remember watching Holland vs Portugal in the WC 2002 qualifier. We destroyed them 2-0 away, I still think that period from 2000 to prior the 2002 WC was the best performances I've seen. We played 2 strikers (Gomes and Pauleta) and Figo, Costa etc were near their peak.

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  • Excellent list...I always remembered that game versus England at Euro 2000, that header by Joao Pinto was goal of the tourney...The Euro 2012 game versus the dutch also a great one...as was Euro 2004 versus Spain and England (love playing England)...you should maybe do a top ten because I can think of many more, especially game 2 of the world cup 2014 playoff versus Sweden....but you are right on with number 1, it can't be anything else until we win the 2018 World Cup.

    from Toronto, ON, Canada
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  • Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    Euro 2004 Semi Final v England

    Portugal down 3 minutes in due to a Michael Owen goal. We had to suffer (surprise-surprise) until the 84's minute for Postiga to head home the equalizer from a Ronaldo cross. (1-1)

    Rui Costa scored the goal of the tournament in extra time when he rampaged the length of the pitch, threw Phill Neville to the floor and hit a bomb to the top shelf. (2-1)

    Lampard scored a goal off a corner from a scramble again in extra time. (2-2)

    Postiga scored his cheeky chip penalty and Ricardo stopped Vassel (I think). Then Ricardo himself took the penalty to send us through. Amazing game!

    from Burlington, ON, Canada
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  • That was the Quarter final amigo

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  • Guest - Ze

    I have to respectfully disagree... Ricardo had some bad moments with set pieces... But he deserved to be goalie over Baia. Remember the debacle of WC 2002? Ricardo started the qualifying games and Portugal were excellent... Baia started the tournament games and they didn't make it out of a group with Korea, USA (not the same team as now) and Poland (again, not the same good team as now). I think that after that horror show, there was no way Baia could be considered the starter for the Selecao.

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  • You're entitled to your opinion Ze, and Baia was responsible for Korea's goal, but the rest of the tournament was down to awful Portuguese defending (they were pretty disorganized at the back), and bad officiating as well as Joao Pinto being an idiot.

    But I don't think you can say Ricardo deserved anything when you compare the resumes of these two men. One is a legend and the other had good moments in a tournament where he ultimately failed to do his job in the final.

    While we're on the topic, I have often been critical of Rui Patricio, and I am happy to eat humble pie after the tournament he had. He was flawless and arguably our man of the match in the final. Well done.

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  • Guest - Medeiros792

    What about Portugal vs Hungary 2016, that was an awesome game!

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