When the U.S. battles Portugal on June 5 in Suwon, Korea to open play in the 2002 World Cup, head coach Bruce Arena’s team will be squaring off against a squad picked by many experts and pundits as one of the darkhorse favorites to win the World Cup in 2002. With a dominating qualifying performance behind them, and players like FIFA World Player of the Year Luis Figo and the dynamic Rui Costa leading the way, Portugal has more than enough offensive ammunition to make a run deep into the tournament in Korea/Japan.
The Portuguese, who are currently ranked an impressive fourth in the FIFA world rankings, are surprisingly making just their third appearance in the World Cup. It has been 16 years since Portugal last appeared in a World Cup, dating all the way back to Mexico 1986.
To advance to Korea/Japan 2002, Portugal won the UEFA Group 2 title in European qualifying, compiling a startling undefeated record of 7-0-3 in a group that included Holland and Ireland. Portugal finished group play with a staggering 33 goals (the most in European qualifying) against difficult opposition. Lead by Head Coach Antonio Oliveira, Portugal recorded a 6-3-0 overall ledger in 2001. In their last major tournament appearance, Portugal were the darlings of the 2000 European Championship, where they advanced to the semifinals only to lose to 1998 World Cup champions France.
Below is a quick historical primer on Portugal’s World Cup history.
ENGLAND 1966: Qualification - Portugal earned their first trip to a World Cup competition after capturing the UEFA Group 4 Title with a 4-1-1 (9 points) overall ledger ... Portugal finished ahead of WC ‘62 semi-finalist Czechoslovakia (3-2-1, 7 points) and Romania (3-3-0, 6 points) ... WC ‘66 – The story of the tournament was Eusebio, Portugal’s goal-scoring hero who would eventually earn the Golden Boot with nine goals in the tournament, including four in an amazing 5-3 victory over North Korea (a game the Koreans lead 3-0 after just 25 minutes!) … Under head coach Otto Gloria, Portugal opened the Group 3 first round with a surprising 3-1 victory over two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and 1954 World Cup runner-up Hungary in Manchester on July 13 ... Portugal jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the first minute thanks to a tally by midfielder Pinto de Almeida Jose Augusto ... After Hungary battled to level the score at 1-1 in the second half, Jose Augusto notched his second goal of the game in the 65th minute of play ... Portugal closed out the scoring with one minute remaining in the match with a tally by forward Augusto Costa Jose Torres ... Three days later, Portugal made it two wins in a row after shutting out Bulgaria 3-0 in the second game of group play in Manchester ... After an own goal by Bulgaria in the seventh minute, forward Da Silva Ferreira Eusebio gave Portugal a 2-0 edge in the 38th minute of the first half ... Jose Torres would close out the scoring in the 82nd minute ... Portugal would clinch the group title after posting an impressive 3-1 victory over the defending champions Brazil (WC ‘62) on July 19, in Liverpool ... Forward Antonio Costa Simoes gave Portugal a 1-0 lead in the first 14 minutes of the game ... Eusebio scored his second goal of the tournament 12 minutes later for a 2-0 edge ... After Brazil cut the lead to 2-1 in the 72nd minute, Eusebio would put the match out of reach for Brazil in the 85th minute as he scored his second goal of the game ... Portugal met a surprising North Korea in the quarterfinals and needed to stage a comeback to post a 5-3 win on July 23, in Liverpool ... The Asians jumped out to a shocking 3-0 lead with only 25 minutes into the game, but two minutes later Eusebio got Portugal on the board to make 3-1 ... Eusebio again scored and made it 3-2 just before the half as Portugal saw signs of staging a comeback ... Eusebio earned a hat trick after scoring his third goal of the match in the 57th minute to level the score at 3-3 ... Two minutes later, Eusebio would tally his fourth goal of the match and becoming the first player since the 1938 World Cup to have four tallies in a single game ... Jose Augusto ended the Portugal scoring spree with the squad’s fifth goal in the 80th minute of play ... Portugal’s World Cup run ended in the semifinals at Wembley Stadium on July 26, with a 2-1 defeat at the hands of the host and eventual champions England ... Portugal could not recover after England took a 2-0 lead late in the game ... Eusebio would score his tournament-leading eighth goal in the 82nd minute but England held on for the win ... Portugal rebounded two days later (July 28) and captured the third-place prize with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over the U.S.S.R. in Wembley Stadium ... Portugal became the first nation since the USA in 1930 to win third-place in their first-ever appearance at the World Cup ... Eusebio notched his tournament-best ninth goal via the penalty spot in the 13th minute of play ... After forward Eduard Malofeev equalized for the U.S.S.R. in the 44th minute, Jose Torres scored the game-winner with two minutes remaining in the match for Portugal.
MEXICO 1986: Qualification - After a 20-year absence, Portugal earned their second-ever World Cup berth by finishing second in the UEFA Group 2 qualifying with 10 points (5-3-0) ... Portugal was just two points behind the eventual group winner West Germany, who finished with a 5-1-2 overall mark ... WC’86 - With José Torres at the helm, Portugal were placed in a Group F in the opening round along with England, Morocco and Poland (a team they will face again in 2002) ... Portugal began group play gaining revenge on England, from the previous time the two teams met in World Cup play, with a 1-0 shutout on June 3, in Monterrey ... Midfielder Correira Santos Carlos Manuel scored the only goal of the game in the 76th minute ... Four days later, Portugal dropped a heartbreaking 1-0 decision to Poland in the second match of group play in Monterrey ... With a berth in the “Round of 16" on the line, Portugal struggled and stumbled in their final first round match as Morocco captured the group title with a 3-1 victory over Portugal on June 11 in Guadalajara ... The lone Portugal goal in the defeat came from second half substitute Fernandes Miranda Diamantino in the 80th minute.