15/12/2019

Back after 14 years, Portugal dare to dream

MEN’S EHF EURO 2020 COUNTDOWN #15: Portugal. Returning to the EHF EURO after 14 years, Portugal have high hopes for a successful tournament despite missing injured key player Gilberto Duarte

Diogo Branquinho hopes to celebrate again when Portugal returns to the EHF EURO for the first time since 2006.

Portugal’s route to the Men’s EHF EURO 2020 saw them defeat six-time world champions France (33:27) and finish second in their qualifying group. It was a triumphant performance that booked them their first ticket to the finals tournament since 2006.

Portugal have been drawn into a tough group in Trondheim, as they will face France again, alongside Norway and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Even though they miss left back Gilberto Duarte due to a left knee injury, Portugal are dreaming of a spot in the main round.

Three questions before the Men’s EHF EURO 2020:

- How much will Gilberto Duarte's absence affect Portugal's chances?

The former Barça left back, now playing for Montpellier, combines his undeniable talent at both ends of the court with his winning mindset. But Duarte, who scored 286 goals in 94 games for Portugal, injured his left knee during a league cup game in France early December and was ruled out for two to three months. He will certainly be missed as a key element in the Portuguese strategy for the EHF EURO 2020, and it remains to be seen which players will step up and compensate for the loss.

- Will Porto and Sporting’s performances in the VELUX EHF Champions League inspire the team?

Many members of the Portuguese squad have gained crucial high-level experience this autumn, playing for FC Porto Sofarma and Sporting CP in the VELUX EHF Champions League. Porto are in a strong position to qualify for the Last 16, while Sporting are also on the brink of doing so, having reached the group phase play-off. The players will bring their positive experiences to the national team.

- Will Portugal use a seven-against-six strategy during the EHF EURO?

Portugal beat France in a qualifier in April 2019 largely thanks to employing a seven-against-six strategy. The variety in playing systems could be beneficial as coach Paulo Pereira might well use this to his advantage throughout the finals tournament.

Under the spotlight: Alfredo Quintana

Nothing beats a great goalkeeper and Alfredo Quintana certainly is one. The Portuguese-Cuban player arrived at Porto in 2010 and has since helped the team win a string of titles with unforgettable performances. Quintana has been a reliable backbone of the Portuguese national team since 2014 and will be a crucial factor to the team’s chances.

Self-esteem

Portugal will need all the confidence gained through their qualification campaign to progress from group D. The opponents in the opening game on 10 January are France, the EHF EURO 2014 and World Championship 2017 champions.

Next, they meet Bosnia and Herzegovina two days later before closing out the preliminary round against Norway, the world silver medallists from 2017 and 2019.

Portugal will need to produce more performances like the one which saw them beat France in qualification in order to shine and surprise the whole of handball Europe.

Fun fact

Portugal's best ever result in a European Championship was seventh, at the EHF EURO 2000 in Croatia. Interestingly, the game that decided the seventh place was against Norway, who 20 years later are back in Portugal’s way.

What the numbers say

One is the number of matches Portugal lost in qualifying for the EHF EURO 2020. The only defeat came in the away match against France (33:24) in April 2019, three days after Portugal had beaten them.

One is also the number of times Portugal have made it to the main round of the EHF EURO, in 2002. They stranded in the preliminary round on four other occasions, most recently in 2006.

written by Tiago Nogueira / jh, ew