The road to New Zealand
Portugal barely put a foot wrong in qualifying for the FIFA U-20 World Cup New Zealand 2015, booking their place by winning all three of their group matches at the 2014 UEFA European Under-19 Championship in Hungary. That perfect record earned the Portuguese a semi-final against Serbia, whom they beat on penalties before being edged out by Germany in the final.
Style and strengths
As they showed at the European Under-19 Championship, and with no little panache, Portugal are a skilful, attack-minded side that are nevertheless strong in every department.
Their front line was particularly impressive in Hungary, never more so than in the 6-1 defeat of the host nation in the group phase, a game in which Andre Silva became the first ever player to score four goals in a European finals match in the age group.
Another of the team’s standout performers is forward Marcos Lopes, also known as Ronny Lopes. Currently on Manchester City’s books, he was loaned out to French side Lille at the start of the 2014/15 season and wasted little time in making an impression in Ligue 1, despite being only 18.
Helio Sousa knows a thing or two about FIFA World Cup™ competitions at this level, having formed part of the side that won Portugal’s first world title, at the FIFA World Youth Championship Saudi Arabia 1989.
Sousa went on to spend his entire playing career at Portuguese outfit Vitoria Setubal, the club where he also took his first steps as a coach before moving to Covilha. He joined the national set-up in 2010, since when he has coached nearly all of Portugal’s youth sides.
FIFA U-20 World Cup record
Portugal have won the competition twice, thanks to the golden generation coached by Carlos Queiroz, who followed up their 1989 triumph in Saudi Arabia by retaining the trophy on home soil two years later, when they beat Brazil in the final.
The Portuguese have finished in the top three on two other occasions, taking the runners-up spot at Colombia 2011 and coming in third at Qatar 1995. Their involvement in the last U-20 world finals, held in Turkey in 2013, came to an end with defeat to Ghana in the last 16.
What they said
“It was a shame we didn’t win the European U-19 title, but we’re going to keep on improving all the way through to the World Cup in 2015. It was a big achievement for us to get to New Zealand but we want more. We want the world title.”
Helio Sousa, Portugal coach