In a Euro Cup chock full of surprises, Portugal capped the fun with the biggest one of all, finally getting the job done on the biggest stage. After years of “almosts” and “could haves,” the Portuguese national team finally won their first major senior-level tournament, pulling off a stunning upset over the host nation France on Sunday.
What made Portugal’s victory so surprising was that superstar Cristiano Ronaldo was forced from the game early with an injury, making their 1-0 win in extra-time a true team effort. While their successful run at the Euro is viewed as an upset now, perhaps it’s a sign that their are brighter days to come for Portugese soccer. Their young midfield of William Carvalho, Joao Mario, and Renato Sanches could lead the team to more success even as 31-year-old Ronaldo continues to slow down.
Of course, we’re a long ways from the next great international competition, the 2018 World Cup. Qualifiers for UEFA won’t even start until this fall, and with two years to stew about how this tournament ended, you can bet powerhouses like France, Germany, Italy, and Spain will all be looking to come back stronger than ever.
But as we examine the current soccer landscape, let’s not forget the Euro Cup wasn’t the only major international event this summer. The Copa America Centenario took place in the US, and while the tournament was largely a joke, a few important storylines emerged.
The biggest was the impromptu retirement of Lionel Messi from international play, following yet another runner-up finish at a major tournament. It sounds like the disappointment of coming so close and never getting it done just became too taxing on the forward, and we know what he thinks of taxes.
While Messi still has plenty of time to renege on his retirement – and odds aren’t bad that he will – as things stand, Argentina’s squad does not inspire a ton of confidence.
Correct handball call or not, Brazil had another disappointing tournament, as well, at the Copa. In fact, after winning their second straight Copa America title, Chile are making a case that they should be the most feared team coming out of CONMEBOL.
With the last big international competitions until the World Cup firmly in the rear-view (no offense, Confederations Cup), now seems like as good a time as any to readjust our World Cup futures. Unhappy with where your team ranks? Don’t blame us England; we watched the same tournament as you.
2018 World Cup Futures:
- Germany: 5/1
- France: 8/1
- Brazil: 9/1
- Spain: 9/1
- Argentina: 10/1
- Italy: 12/1
- Portugal: 14/1
- Belgium: 16/1
- Chile: 16/1
- England: 20/1
- Netherlands: 20/1
- Colombia: 22/1
- Croatia: 25/1
- Russia: 30/1
- USA: 50/1
(Photo Credit: Fanny Schertzer (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)