The country of Portugal will be at a standstill today when Porto meets Braga in the Europa League finale.
It is the first ever all-Portuguese final in the history of European competitions. Clubs from the same country, meeting at a European final, is a rare occurrence. In 146 finals played since 1956, including the Champions League, there has only been 13 such occurrences.
There have been 5 all-Spanish, 5 all-Italian, 2 all-English and one all-German finals. Portugal is not new to European successes, but they are few and far in between.
There are three periods where Portuguese clubs competed with the top European clubs and managed some silverware.
Benfica was the first Portuguese team to appear on the European soccer map.
It brought to an end the dynasty of Real Madrid and created their own history by winning two consecutive European Cups and reaching the final three more times in 8 years.
Sporting CP, the other Lisbon club, managed to win the Cup Winners Cup in 1964. The star of that period was the Mozambique-born Eusebio who guided Portugal to the third place finish in the 1966 World Cup, and was the top goal scorer with 9 goals.
After the retirement of Eusebio, Portuguese soccer had to wait until the 1980s to be able to compete again. Benfica reached the UEFA cup final in 1983 and Porto reached the Cup Winners Cup final in 1984 but both lost.
The national team reached the semifinals of Euro 1984 in their only ever appearance until Euro 1996. They also exited in the group stage of World Cup 1986 in their second appearance and the only one until World Cup 2002.
Porto, finally, managed to win the European Cup against Bayern Munich in 1987 which featured two big stars with Paulo Futre of Portugal and Rabah Madjer of Algeria.
This win signalled the arrival of Porto on the European scene. Benfica, then, reached two EC finals in 1988 and 1990 and lost both to PSV and AC Milan respectively.
The Golden Generation
The success of the Portuguese soccer in the 80s gave rise to a new generation of players that led Portugal to winning the U-20 FIFA World Cup twice (1989 and 1991) and the golden generation was born, including stars like Luis Figo and Rui Costa.
But unfortunately for the Portuguese clubs, most of these players decided to ply their trade abroad, being lured by the big money spending foreign clubs. This led to another period of disappearance from the European soccer map.
Then, a new name appeared that will usher Portugal into a new era; Jose Mourinho. The young manager arrived at Porto in January 2002 and within two and a half years; he led them to the UEFA Cup in 2003 and the Champions League in 2004, before leaving to Chelsea.
He was helped by a set of new stars that included Deco, Maniche and Carvalho. Sporting CP also reached the UEFA Cup final in 2005 where they lost to CSKA Moscow.
These club successes coincided with Portugal’s most successful national team era.
Although the golden generation helped in qualifying to every World Cup finals since 2002 and every Euro finals since 1996, their best result came in reaching the title game in Euro 2004 followed by a semifinal appearance in World Cup 2006.
New Managerial Blood
In addition to the many excellent soccer players that were influenced by the golden generation like Cristiano Ronaldo, probably, the most important influence on Portuguese soccer, nowadays, came from one man.
The meteoric rise of Jose Mourinho and his managing methodology became a legend and many young Portuguese managers are following in his steps.
The current Porto manager, Andre Villas Boas, is a student of Mourinho, having worked with him before. The 33 year old coach has built a monster at Porto.
A team that is as strong in defense as in attack. They destroyed their opponents with some outstanding soccer. Braga, on the other hand, is managed by Domingos Paciencia.
The 42 year old coach is a former star player at Porto who helped them to 7 league titles and 5 cups and was voted Portugal MVP in 1990.
As a manager, he guided Braga to second place finish last season, ahead of Porto, and first ever appearance at the Champions League group stage.
Porto vs. Braga
Wednesday 2:45 pm (EST)
Porto features some of the most exciting new stars on the European scene, like the Colombian Radamel Falcao who has already broken Jurgen Klinsmann’s record for most goals in one season of European competition with 16 goals.
Also, it includes the powerful Brazilian striker Hulk who is the leading scorer of the Portuguese league this year with 23 goals. Porto won the 2010-2011 league title after going undefeated. T
hey beat Braga twice (3-2 at home and 2-0 away). They eliminated Villarreal, Sevilla, CSKA Moscow and Spartak Moscow with a very scintillating display.
Braga, also, achieved some remarkable results against some very strong opponents in the Champions League like Arsenal, Celtic and Sevilla.
They also eliminated Liverpool, Benfica and Dynamo Kiev on their route to the final.
Unlike Porto, Braga relies on strong organized defense and efficient counterattacks. They are not likely to score a lot of goals and not likely to concede a lot either.
Their brand of soccer is hard to watch for the neutrals. But against a side like Porto, this is maybe their only chance at getting some result.
Braga has never won any European trophy and going against a team that has a lot of pedigree in Europe. But does history mean any thing in this situation?
Can they pull out an upset?
You bet they can.
Portuguese clubs records in Europe
1- Porto: 3 title (4 final appearances)
2- Benfica: 2 (8)
3- Sporting CP: 1 (2)
Portugal’s rank among top European countries
1- Spain: 31 European titles (including the UCL)
2- Italy: 29
2- England: 29
4- Germany: 17
5- Netherlands: 11
6- Portugal: 6
You can get updates through RSS (top of the page), follow at Twitter BobbySoccerRep, or on Facebook SoccerReportExtra.com You can also find other Soccer Report Extra.com contributors on Twitter by following this link.
Please refrain from posting comments that;
The House reserves the right to delete any such comments and to block further participation on the site.