Portugal

The past
Portugal have enjoyed their greatest successes at international level in the U-20 category, following up victory over Nigeria in the final of the Saudi Arabia 1989 edition of the FIFA U-20 World Cup with triumph at the same competition on home soil two years later. The final of the latter tournament, up against Brazil, was played in front of 120,000 fans at a packed Estadio da Luz, who witnessed the side then coached by Carlos Queiroz emerge victorious on penalties. Portugal have since struggled to live up the expectations created by that Geração de Ouro (Golden Generation), with the class of Australia 1993 exiting at the group phase and the Qatar 1995 squad bowing out at the last-four stage against Brazil. Portugal have reached just two FIFA U-20 World Cups since, at Nigeria 1999 and Canada 2007, and fell at the Round-of-16 hurdle on both occasions.

The present
After failing to qualify for the FIFA U-20 World Cup Egypt 2009, Portugal will make their return to the competition at Colombia 2011. Qualification was secured via the 2009/10 UEFA European U-19 Championship, with a berth in Colombia handed to the three best-ranked sides in each of the two four-team groups at July’s final tournament on French soil. Having kicked off with a 2-0 opening win over Italy, a 2-1 defeat by neighbours Spain meant that Portugal needed just a point against Croatia in their final group game to reach the last four. Instead they were overwhelmed 5-0 by the Croats, for whom Zvonko Pamic scored a hat-trick. Recently, Portugal performed well in the Toulon Tournament, one of the most prestigious junior tournaments in the world, but narrowly failed to progress beyond the group phase. A win against Côte d'Ivoire and draws with Colombia and Italy, saw them eliminated on goal difference.

The future
Despite this painful reverse, Portugal still ended up finishing Group B in third spot after eventual runners-up Spain rounded off a flawless group campaign by dispatching Italy 3-0. That third place guaranteed their involvement at Colombia 2011, which will be Portugal’s eighth appearance at the FIFA U-20 World Cup. And though repeating the glory days of the Geração de Ouro will be no easy task, the Lusitanians’ U-20 crop are certainly up for the challenge.