Two trophies in three years - A Golden era for Portuguese football
Portugal had to wait 86 years to see their country lift a major trophy - and just like that two came along at once.
After Portugal’s European triumph in 2016 versus France, Portugal, the self-proclaimed and endearingly nicknamed “Ugly Ducklings” of the tournament, stunned the hosts to give their adoring nation tangible success for the first time in history.
Having come so close to doing it in 2004 in their own backyard, the success of Euro 2016 gave the nation a long-lasting buoyant mood, a nation that, for a long time after, felt as if it would be eternally contented.
But once you’ve had even a brief taste for success, restlessness does eventually kick in, a greedy desire to build on that initial triumph. The nation will always look back at that night in Paris with great fondness, they are, and will always have been, European champions, and no one can take that away. But eventually you begin looking for the next one, that next trophy to feed the addiction.
And after a disappointing World Cup campaign last summer, Portuguese fans were quite quickly brought back down to earth. Still somewhat joyous about the Euro 2016 victory, the success of two years earlier did soften the blow slightly, although it did, in some ways, also make experiencing defeat a little more frustrating, wanting to just continue to maintain that permanent level of footballing ecstasy.
Having become accustomed to overachieving at tournaments but never quite achieving ultimate, tangible success, Portuguese fans had built up this overwhelming need, almost a desperation, to win something, a feeling of necessity to simply break the trend and finally go all the way in an international competition.
It was somewhat unpleasant, seeing so many fans every passing year celebrating while Portugal could never quite get across the line. As a football mad country, to say the nation was craving to see their name engraved onto the side of a trophy would be an understatement.
When it did finally happen, there was this outpouring of excitement, delight, pride and, in some ways, relief. Relief that the pressure to win something, particularly while Cristiano Ronaldo was still around, had been resolved. A joyous day that is always etched in the minds of fans of the Selecao as its name is forever etched onto the European Championship trophy.
But that sense of pressure has now been replaced with a hungry desire to continue to have success and keep it going for as long as possible. As a relatively small country, Portuguese people are incredibly proud of their exploits on the continental and world stage, and they do not want the good times to end.
I had always anticipated that one trophy would always be enough, once that first piece of silverware was won, a generation would be contented forever. But that’s simply not the case. In contrast, once you have that success, you want to hold onto it perhaps even more than you ever wanted it in the first place. Hence why this Nations League success means so much to the country.
Victory over The Netherlands on Sunday added another trophy to Portugal’s cabinet, marking two trophies in three years. Fans celebrated in huge numbers in squares around Porto where the final was hosted; the celebrations weren’t at the level of the Euro 2016 success, of course not. But this wasn’t a meaningless, bonus trophy. This had the feel of a proper, major international competition that has fed a hungry nation that is beginning to get used to feasting on success.
We have been spoiled - and we have to make the most of the success while it’s around, because who knows for how long it will continue.
In any case, there is renewed optimism in the nation, excitement about what the future may hold. And, ultimately, a burning desire to go for trophy number three next summer in Euro 2020.