Women's football in Portugal progressing year on year
National team narrowly missed out on a place at EURO 2022
A Selecção das Quinas just attained highest FIFA Ranking (30th)
"Here we are rubbing shoulders with the best players in the world. You might say it’s sort of our World Cup."
The words, uttered by former Portugal coach Monica Jorge back in 2011, refer to the Algarve Cup. Held annually on Portuguese soil, this tournament was at the time one of the few opportunities for the host nation’s representatives to test themselves against the best teams in the world. Back then, they were ranked 43rd on the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women's World Ranking.
A decade on and things have changed for the better, with Portugal now ranked among the world’s top 30 sides, four years after making their UEFA Women’s EURO debut in the Netherlands. Russia narrowly defeated Portugal to knock them out of participation in the 2022 edition.
"This is the second consecutive edition in which Portugal have qualified for the play-offs, but this time we achieved it with better results in the group stage," Jorge, who is now Head of Women’s Football Development in Portugal, told FIFA.com. "We finished second in our pool with 19 points, thanks to six wins, one draw and one defeat, to Finland."
Of course, a second consecutive EURO participation would have obviously been great for Portugal but the country has already achieved something tangible by significantly advancing the women’s game in Portugal in such a short space of time. This progress is clearly the result of the rigorous, far sighted work that the Portuguese football federation has been carrying out for years.
"Competitions have been the main driving force for us," Jorge explained. "New ones have emerged both nationally and regionally, including a junior women's championship launched in 2015 for the U-19s, the Women's Super Cup initiated in August 2016, as was the League Cup in 2020.
"The establishment of new teams has been the other central issue for us. Renowned clubs like Sporting CP, Benfica and SC Braga have all created women's sections, which has contributed to the development of our discipline. This in turn has enhanced its appeal the media, to fans and consequently to sponsors. Finally, we’ve also invested a lot in coaching and women's leadership."
The Portuguese federation was the first to have its own dedicated television channel. Jorge said: "It’s a tool that helps the development of women's football by broadcasting many national league and Champions League matches."
This concerted effort is now being reflected in the senior national team, as well as in the age category sides. Accordingly, Portugal reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Women’s U-19 Championship in 2012, then qualified for the finals of the U-17 equivalent in 2014 and 2019, while the seniors famously graced EURO 2017. "You mature and inevitably learn faster by facing top ten teams," Jorge said.
While Portugal have closed some of the gap on the leading lights of women's football, "we remain a long way from the level of the best teams," she warned before concluding: "Our national team is increasingly competitive but is not yet capable of contending for titles. It needs to make further progress. We’re on the right track and I’m convinced that one day we’ll succeed in being among the best, just like our men's team did."