With an average age of 28, the nation’s 23-man squad is far from being considered one of the more youthful teams at the tournament. Neither has it been considered as even close to being one of it’s best. It is however a squad with some of the most promising players under that age of 25 at Euro 2016.
Fernando Santos has said that he believes it to be his personal responsibility to guide a new generation of talent into the Portugal team, The Panenka takes a closer look.
Despite some self-confessed ‘ugly’ football and a few tepid displays, the Portugal boss has found the winning ingredients through a mixture of youth and experience from the 38-year-old Ricardo Carvalho to the 18-year-old parvenue Renato Sanches.
Raphael Guerreiro, 22
The defender’s performances in France have been so impressive that he was signed by Borussia Dortmund from Lorient for a fee thought to be in the region of $14 million.
“Raphael Guerreiro is a technically-skilled player who feels at home in several positions,” Dortmund’s sporting director Michael Zorc told the German club’s official website. “We are very happy that he has chosen Borussia Dortmund.”
The 22-year-old has played in three of Portugal’s games at Euro 2016 and would have appeared in more had it not been for an injury sustained after the 0-0 draw with Austria. The left-back returned for the biggest game of his life in the semi-final against Wales.
At Dortmund, Guerreiro will compete with the experienced full-back Marcel Schmelzer but is undoubtedly his long term replacement. Furthermore, despite currently lacking some of the physical attributed needed to compete in the Bundesliga the Portuguese player is likely to fit in well as an all-out attacking wing back.
Cedric Soares, 24
The right back has made three appearances at Euro 2016 so far, each of them occurring in the high pressure environment of the knockout stages.
Last summer, while Ronald Koeman was still at Southampton, the club paid Sporting Lisbon a fee reported to be in the region of $7 million for the defenders services where he made 24 appearances in his debut season.
Appearing in a back-four alongside Saints team mate Jose Fonte the full back has looked at east in the tournament where the side has only conceded once with him on the field.
Cedric’s performances in The Premier League enabled Southampton supporters to get over the sale of Nathaniel Clyne. He arrived at St. Mary’s from Portugal’s capital already an established international with Champions League experience.
Danilo Pereira, 24
Porto’s holding midfielder has appeared in 5 out of Portugal’s six games at Euro 2016, two starts and three substitute appearances.
Although unlikely to start the final in Paris, the 6ft 2in midfield enforcer has definitely added $10-$20 million to his summer price tag where a host of Europe’s elite are waiting to pounce on the Guinea-Bissau born 24-year-old.
In the semi-final against Wales the Benfica youth product stepped into the side in place of the suspended William Carvalho and looked like he simply belonged as the former Maritimo man nullified the opposing midfield.
With Portugal boss Fernando Santos frequently looking to pack his midfield with ball winners, Danilo has been one of the most crucial squad players for at the tournament, particularly instrumental for the Euro 2016 finalists.
Benfica allowed the midfielder to leave on a free when they opted against offering him a professional contract aged 19. Via Parma, Aris Thessaloniki, Roda JC Kerkrade and Martimo, the midfielder holder won the Taca de Portugal with Porto in 2016.
Joao Mario, 23
The Sporting Lisbon midfielder revealed that he was “living a dream” after starring in the 2-0 victory over Wales to reach the final of Euro 2016.
The Portugal midfielder is one of Fernando Santos’ key men as he possess the ability to to play as both a central midfielder and a wide man, allowing the finalists the flexibility to change systems to either a 4-4-2 diamond, a 4-4-2 with wingers or a 4-3-3 if necessary.
The 23-year-old is part of the same crop of youth products as Cedric Soares whom he played alongside before the former left for the climbs of the English Premier League. Mario’s importance to his national team is underlined by the fact that he has started all six of his country’s matches in France this summer.
Os Leoes will face an uphill struggle to retain the midfielder’s services this summer with the youngster being toted as a natural replacement for none other than the great Andres Iniesta.
Renato Sanches, 18
Despite only agreeing terms last March, Bayern Munich’s latest signing is already making a strong case for a starting spot under Carlo Ancelotti at the Allianz Arena with some inspired performances at Euro 2016.
The 18-year-old is one of the world’s hottest talents and made that abundantly clear when he scored the crucial equalizer in the 1-1 draw quarter-final against Poland.
The last-8 appearance was his first start at the tournament this summer and the convincing performance meant that the youngster kept his place in the starting eleven for the semi-final.
In the aftermath of the blossoming midfielders exploits against Poland a nasty, untrue and discriminatory rumor regarding the former Benfica starlet’s true age became public, the origins of which were traced back to Sporting Lisbon president Bruno de Carvalho.