Thursday, June 21, 2012

Portugal's Great Football Teams

I always love to watch Portugal's football team in action; they're my default team at any major championships. Part of the reason is that the Portuguese -- for all their faults in the colonial era -- have steadfastly featured African players on their squads for over fifty years now. They and the French teams are always the "African" teams at any European championships. 

In the picture below is the is the great (Mozambican-born) captain of the Portuguese squad from the 60s, Mario Coluna, and further below him is another Mozambican-born star from the 60s, and probably Portugal's' greatest ever player.....the incomparable Eusebio.


The African and Latin flavor of the Portuguese team always make them a joy to watch, and I particularly like the present team spearheaded by Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo. But, in no way, is this team the best Portugal has ever fielded. Let's go back to 1984 to the great team that featured Joao Pinto in defence and the Angolan-born Jordao in attack. They (pictured below) played some marvelous football, but were unable to stop the Michel Platini-led French team winning the tournament.

Having said that, all football pundits agree that Portugal's greatest ever crop of footballers was the so-called "golden generation" that featured Luis Figo, Rui Costa, Fernando Couto, and Vitor Baia (the team is pictured below). As juniors, this team won the FIFA U20 World Championships in '91 and coalesced as a group, finally peaking at the Euro 2000 Championships. 

For all their firepower, they never actually won any championships (after their success in '91), but boy were they a sight to behold: the wing-play of Luis Figo; the crafty midfield-play of Rui Costa; and the clean-hands in goal of Vitor Baia. I rank this team in the top five teams ever to grace a football-field, up there with the Dutch teams of the 70s and the great 1970 Brazilian team of Pele, Tostao and Revelinho. This truly was a golden generation of football players.

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