The biggest sporting event in the world is the Olympics, and the men’s soccer tournament is one of the top events in the summer games. Portugal is a relatively small country compared to some of the bigger nations that excel in international soccer. However, they still have a rich history of winning tournaments and producing some of the best players ever. Despite the history of UEFA and FIFA tournament success for Portugal, they have only competed in four Olympics. Let’s look at the brief history of Portugal’s men’s soccer team in the Olympic Games.
Portugal was invited to enter the 1928 Olympics taking place in the Netherlands. At this time, the Olympics was the top international tournament as the first World Cup would occur two years later, in 1930. This resulted in teams sending their best national teams to the tournament. The 1928 Olympics was the first tournament the Portuguese national team had competed in.
In the preliminary round, Portugal faced Chile and was down 2-0, but the Portuguese scored four unanswered goals and advanced to the first round of the tournament with a 4-2 win. Portugal took on Yugoslavia in the first round. A 90th-minute goal gave Portugal a 2-1 victory. Egypt awaited them in the quarter-finals, and Portugal lost 2-1. Egypt would lose to Argentina 6-0 in the semi-finals and lose to Italy 11-0 in the bronze medal match.
Because of the World Cup creation in 1930, there was no soccer tournament in the 1932 Olympics. Portugal would not enter a team for Olympic competition from 1936-1980.
Portugal entered Olympic soccer qualifications beginning in 1984. After creating the World Cup, the Olympic soccer tournament was changed to an entirely amateur tournament. Despite forming an Olympic team, Portugal could not put their name in the online sportsbook, as they failed to qualify from 1984-1992. The Olympics changed their eligibility rules for their men’s soccer tournament in 1992.
After a 58-year drought, Portugal returned to the Olympics in 1996 held in the United States. After the long layoff, Portugal had their best performance in the Olympics, placing fourth. Placed in Group A, Portugal defeated Tunisia 2-0 in their opening match, followed by two consecutive 1-1 draws to the United States and Argentina. With a 1-2-0 record, Portugal placed second in the group and advanced to the knockout stage.
Portugal faced France in the quarter-finals. After 90 minutes, the two teams were tied up with a goal each. The Olympics used the golden goal rule in matches that went to extra time. Jose Calado converted a penalty kick in the 105th minute, and Portugal won 2-1. In the semi-finals, Portugal took on fellow Group A member Argentina. Argentina’s Hernan Crespo scored the only goals of the match, as the Portuguese lost 2-0. They faced Brazil in the bronze medal match, but Portugal was shut out again. Brazil’s Bebeto scored a hat-trick in their 5-0 win. Despite the disappointing ending to the tournament, Portugal had to be proud to have a decent showing in their second-ever Olympics.
The 2000 Olympics in Australia did not have Portugal, as they failed to qualify. Portugal did qualify for the 2004 games in Greece. They were placed in Group D with Morocco, Costa Rica, and Iraq. Portugal seemed to be a favorite in the soccer odds and advanced to the knockout stage. Portugal lost their opening match 4-2 against Iraq, but they were able to bounce back and defeat Morocco 2-1. Heading into the final match, Portugal had to beat Costa Rica to advance to the quarter-finals, and things looked good as they took a 2-1 lead in the second half. But Costa Rica scored three unanswered goals, including an own goal by Portugal, and Costa Rica won 4-2.
The Portuguese did not qualify for the 2008 or 2012 Olympics. The 2016 Olympics were held in Brazil, and Portugal did qualify for the men’s soccer tournament. Group D consisted of Portugal, Honduras, Argentina, and Algeria. Portugal placed first in the group, beating Argentina and Honduras and drawing Algeria in the final match.
After a successful group stage, Portugal was eliminated in the quarter-finals, losing 4-0 to Germany. The Germans did go to the finals but lost to the host nation Brazil in penalties. Portugal failed to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Portugal has a rich history of international soccer, but they have not had much success in the Olympics. They have only played in four tournaments, and for most of the 20th century, they did not field an Olympic team. Portugal is an example of the divide between the significant FIFA tournaments and the Olympics. Portugal has been successful in the World Cup and the Euros, but the Olympics have not been a priority for most of the nation’s international soccer history. The Portuguese have a spotty history in the Olympic Games, but they could be on the verge of winning their first Olympic medal in the 2024 games in Paris.