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Portugal face one of the trickiest group stages in European Championship history as they prepare to tackle France, Germany and Hungary this summer. Photo Squawka

Portugal face one of the trickiest group stages in European Championship history as they prepare to tackle France, Germany and Hungary this summer.

Group F is considered the ‘Group of Death’ for this tournament and Portugal’s hopes of defending their crown at Euro 2020 were seemingly dealt a blow before a ball had even been kicked.

However, the draw won’t deter boss Fernando Santos from his quest of delivering further international success to this corner of the the continent. And Portugal certainly have high hopes heading into their first of the Euro 2020 fixtures, with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Pepe, Joao Moutinho and Jose Fonte still going strong despite their veteran status.

Portugal were far from perfect when they won the Euros in France five years ago but discovered a clinical touch that proved superior against other, more fancied teams. Can they rock the content again and bring the trophy back to Lisbon?

When are Portugal playing next?

Portugal’s first fixture at Euro 2020 will see them face Hungary in a key clash on Tuesday 15th June 2021.

The match kicks off at 5pm (UK time) and will be shown live on ITV and online via the ITV Hub.

The Puskas Arena in Budapest will host the game, meaning Hungary will have something of a home advantage over Portugal. However, the Portuguese are favourites to win this tie.

Portugal fixtures:

Tuesday 15th June

Game 1 – Group F: Hungary v Portugal (5pm)

Saturday 19th June

Game 2 – Group F: Portugal v Germany (5pm)

Wednesday 23rd June

Game 3 – Group F: Portugal v France (8pm)

Portugal Euro 2020 squad: full 26-man squad

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Photo Foottheball

Goalkeepers: Anthony Lopes (Olympique Lyon), Rui Patricio (Wolverhampton Wanderers FC), Rui Silva (Granada CF)

Defenders: Joao Cancelo (Manchester City), Nelson Semedo (Wolverhampton Wanderers FC), Jose Fonte (LOSC Lille), Pepe (FC Porto), Ruben Dias (Manchester City), Nuno Mendes (Sporting CP), Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund)

Midfielders: Danilo Pereira (PSG), Joao Palhinha (Sporting CP), Ruben Neves (Wolverhampton Wanderers FC), Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United FC), Joao Moutinho (Wolverhampton Wanderers FC), Renato Sanches (LOSC Lille), Sergio Oliveira (FC Porto), William Carvalho (Real Betis Bolompie)

Forwards: Pedro Goncalves (Sporting CP), Andre Silva (Eintracht Frankfurt), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City FC), Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus FC), Diogo Jota (Liverpool FC), Goncalo Guedes (Valencia CF), Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid), Rafa Silva (SL Benfica)

Portugal Euro 2020: Full Squad, Schedule, Key Players, Coach and Predictions

Portugal manager

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Photo Foottheball

Portugal’s most successful ever coach, Fernando Santos has been in charge of the national team since 2014 and has overseen 84 matches – more than any other previous manager. He is credited with transforming Portugal from a set of individual talents into a team unit that defends doggedly and exploits the talents of Ronaldo and co. when bombing forward.

Santos has managed the three biggest teams in Portugal and was Greece boss for four years before taking the Portugal job. He thrived at the last Euros when Portugal were overlooked outsiders for the tournament and the boss will seek to exploit those same weaknesses in his opponents again this summer.

Fernando Santos: The international grandmaster

Santos is quickly approaching 150 games as an international manager with Greece and Portugal and, thus far, he’s only lost 20 games across all competitions and friendlies. What’s more, his record in tournament play is quite remarkable:

Fernando Santos’ international major tournament record:

Euro 2012 (Greece): Quarter-finals

2014 World Cup (Greece): Last 16

Euro 2016 (Portugal): Winner

2018 World Cup: Last 16

2019 Nations League: Winner

Portugal Euro 2020 squad: Team preview

Europe, beware: the reigning champions have a significantly stronger squad than they did when lifting their first-ever major trophy in 2016. Whether Portugal have a better team this summer, though, will depend on coach Fernando Santos’ ability to don his white coat and master the chemistry of his first-choice XI.

One-time Swansea striker Eder was Portugal’s match-winner against France

in Paris five years ago, but Santos now boasts an embarrassment of riches at

his disposal. Although a traditionally conservative coach, he’s rightly shown signs of loosening the shackles: failure to maximise the attacking talent of Cristiano Ronaldo (above), Joao Felix, Diogo Jota, Bernardo Silva and Bruno Fernandes would feel like a crime against football.

As Santos knows full well, however, big names alone don’t win you major tournaments – much less international ones, where keeping things tight and taking the few chances on offer is usually the recipe for success. With the Selecao in Euro 2020’s Group of Death, it’s unlikely he’ll be going gung-ho.

ALSO SEE Portugal's Euro 2020 fixtures

Despite glimpses of a more expansive style in impressive home wins against Croatia (4-1) and Sweden (3-0), the evidence from Portugal’s latest Nations League campaign suggests Santos will be perfectly happy to stick with the modus operandi that has served him well. They reverted to type in the two matches against their main rivals France, with revered marksman N’Golo Kante scoring the only goal across 180 minutes. It’s not like the country’s FA are anything but thrilled with Santos’ approach, though, considering they handed him a new four-year contract last summer, which could take him to a decade of service.

While Portugal have the weapons to hurt any team, things aren’t quite so rosy at the back. A 38-year-old Pepe remains crucial at the heart of defence, but the replacement for Porto’s increasingly injury-prone (and angry) centre-back is 37-year-old Jose Fonte.

Pepe staying fit throughout the tournament, or Santos finding a solid alternative to partner Manchester City’s Ruben Dias in central defence, could be essential in establishing whether or not Portugal can embellish the most golden era in their history with more silverware.

Portugal Euro 2020 squad: Who is Portugal's best player?

Portugal Euro 2020 squad: Cristiano Ronaldo 100th Portugal goal (Image credit: PA)

Cristiano Ronaldo, obviously. One of the greatest players to have ever lived, the talisman leads Portugal's forward line while also captaining the side, and is barely showing signs of slowing down at 36.

Despite leaving the final at Euro 2016 injured in the first half, Ronaldo frantically orchestrated Portugal from the touchline in what are iconic scenes of the Madeira-born marksman.

The best players Portugal will bring to Euro 2020

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Photo Twitter

Cristiano Ronaldo

We said they “don’t come much better” than Fernandes for a reason: Portugal have Cristiano Ronaldo in their ranks.

Even at 36 years old, Ronaldo is one of the most lethal forwards on the planet, rapidly approaching 100 goals for Juventus in less than three seasons since joining from Real Madrid, firing the Old Lady to back-to-back scudetti in the process. He might not be as mobile as he once was, but Ronaldo still has a deceptive turn of pace, while his physicality and ability in the air are almost unmatched.

Ronaldo has formed an extremely close bond with his national team manager over the years and Santos was quick to defend his captain when some suggested Portugal would actually be better off as a team without the 173-time international, who has scored a ridiculous 103 goals during that time.

“What more can I say? A team that has the best in the world cannot be better without the best in the world,” said Santos in September. “[Ronaldo] goes on breaking records and records and then, when everyone thinks he is going to finish, there are even more records to beat. He feeds on it.”

Ronaldo has scored 21 goals in 44 caps for Portugal across European Championship, World Cup and Nations League play combined and even when he’s unable to have a direct influence on the game himself, he is front and centre, encouraging and demanding the very best from his teammates. The images of him acting as a second manager from the dugout during the Euro 2016 final have become iconic.

Rui Patricio

Likely one of the few surviving members of that 2016 success, Rui Patricio was in inspired form as Portugal finally ended their international heartache, keeping four clean sheets in seven games and making 21 saves. Since then, he’s added the Nations League to his medal collection while also winning a Taça da Liga with Sporting CP, before moving to the Premier League with Wolves.

Since joining up with compatriot Nuno Espirito Santo, Patricio has been almost ever-present, missing just one Premier League game across his first two seasons alone. The 33-year-old has consistently ranked among the English top-flight’s top goalkeepers when it comes to saves and clean sheets, and he’ll be a formidable last line of defence for an already rock-solid backline that conceded just six goals in eight qualifying games.

Ruben Dias

“His ability is incredible, as is his understanding of the game,” Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said of Ruben Dias back in January. “He wants to learn and all of us were impressed by how he takes care of his body and mind, every day. We were surprised a lot.

“The day after [a game] – 8.30 in the morning in the gym. He makes his routine, he eats perfectly. He lives 24 hours for his profession. I can assure you that we signed one incredible player for the next five, six, seven years. That is not easy to find.”

Indeed, after a tough initial teething period, Dias has truly stepped up to the plate, leading an almost unbreakable Man City defence that has swatted some of the Premier League’s best forwards aside like flies in recent months. So good has the partnership between Dias and John Stones been, that even the mighty Aymeric Laporte has struggled to get minutes on the pitch.

Most likely to partner Jose Fonte — who has been excellent for Lille this season — at the heart of the Portuguese defence, Dias will bring supreme class in possession for his nation, while he’ll also be the one to come out and defend on the front foot, allowing the veteran Fonte to sit behind and mop up. It’s a partnership of young and old, speed and strength, style and solidity. One which will make Portugal very difficult to score against.

Bruno Fernandes

Of course, it’s not all about defending for Portugal, even if that is what has often carried them to victory since 2016. Further forward, the Selecao are blessed with some of the most dangerous midfielders and forwards on the planet right now, and they don’t come much better than Bruno Fernandes.

Sure, he’s only managed two goals and four assists in 27 caps at senior international level so far, but he’s been right in the thick of the attacking action at club level since joining Manchester United in January 2020, just as he was in Portugal for Sporting CP. Fernandes is the central piece to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s jigsaw, effectively carrying the Red Devils to second at times and although he can be accused of stat-padding with penalties, that is actually a skill that can serve you well at international tournaments.

Even with his goalscoring exploits in mind, it’s going to be Fernandes’ job to get the ball to Portugal’s lethal forwards.

Portugal predictions: Last-16 exit

2016 proved that we cannot write Portugal off but the big issue for Santos this summer is the group stage. While most of this tournament’s top-ranked teams should ease into the competition, Portugal must be on top form at the first whistle.

Failure to beat Hungary would potentially ruin their tournament. Santos knows he needs to get points from either Germany or France (ideally both!), yet second place in the group could lead to a last-16 encounter with England.

How far can Portugal go? On the basis of 2016 all the way to the final. But they have a difficult route and don’t have any home advantage in this pan-European tournament.

Portugal's past Euros record?

Portugal have won the Euros once in their history, at the last championships in 2016. Enjoying success in the tournament since they qualified for their first tournament in 1984, where they reached the semi-finals - though only eight teams participated.

Portugal reached the quarter-finals in both 1996 and 2008, while they progressed further to the semi-finals in 2000 and 2012, as well as their 1984 involvement. Hosting the 2004 tournament, Portugal had the perfect opportunity to win the Euros in front of their fans. Reaching the final, the game ended in heartbreak as Greece emerged 1-0 winners.

However, Portugal made amends at Euro 2016, as they beat hosts France 1-0 in extra-time of the final, thanks to a long-range effort from Eder.

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