UTRECHT, Netherlands – The expansion of participants from 12 to 16 teams competing at the European Championships has provided an opportunity for some countries that otherwise would not have qualified for the EURO 2017. Portugal competed for the first time at a major tournament and did not at all look out of place. They picked up a win over Scotland and suffered close defeats against Spain and England.
Boston Breakers midfielder Amanda DaCosta described what it was like to play at the EUROs and how support from fans in the Netherlands and back home helped the team.
“It’s been pretty amazing,” said DaCosta. “Our Portuguese fans have been great traveling for us. They’re so loud, we hear them every single game. We knew it was our first time and that we had some tough games ahead of us, but we stayed true to ourselves and really came together. I think it elevated our game playing against some of the better teams in the world. It was really positive.”
Portugal wasn’t expected to surprise anyone. They entered the tournament with the lowest FIFA ranking at 38th. While they looked a tad nervous against Spain, they quickly settled in and defeated Scotland, 2-1. They went into their final group stage match with a real possibility of advancing to the quarterfinals. A draw would have done the job, but it wasn’t to be, as England took all three points.
DaCosta was pleased with how Portugal were able to grow and mature during the group stage. They could have easily been out matched, but they stuck with the process and really challenged for a spot in the quarterfinals. Portugal was quite a nice revelation.
“Yeah, I think so,” DaCosta said, when asked if Portugal surprised other teams. “First game jitters maybe against Spain. We didn’t really play like ourselves that game, but we rebounded against Scotland and were able to show what we were capable of. Winning that game was huge for us. It was historical for Portugal to win a game in the EUROs, so that was tremendous.
“England, they were resting some of their better players, but they’re still one of the best in the world—that goes for every player, top to bottom. Pushing them to really have to perform against us, we almost came out with a result. We were really close to moving on. I think we definitely surprised some people that weren’t expecting that from us at all.”
— Amanda DaCosta (@ADacosta13) July 28, 2017
The future of women’s football looks bright for Portugal. Playing at the EUROs will give players confidence and a sense that they belong with the best of the best in Europe. Manager Francisco Neto will have gained more knowledge that he and his coaching staff can use and pass on to the squad.
Portugal will be in tough competition during 2019 FIFA World Cup Qualifying in Group 6 with Italy, Belgium, Romania, and Moldova. They should be able to make some decent noise, with a real shot of topping the group or earning another playoff chance among the runners-up.
“I think the competition definitely helped us,” admitted DaCosta. “It showed us what we need to work on and the things that we do well. I think that’s all you can ask for in international competition. I know the goal for Portugal is to continue being a part of these big international tournaments, so it seems like we’re on the right track.”
Francisco Neto has brought an enthusiastic mindset and has shown massive confidence in his players abilities. ‘Neto’ believes in his players, and in turn they believe they can set new goals and continue to strive. Neto has seen Portugal during the dark times and now as they begin to flourish. Being able to bring in players with Portuguese heritage who may not have first thought about representing Portugal has proven to be a strength.
“He saw this team when they weren’t doing so great and motivated the entire group,” revealed DaCosta. “All the staff has done a great job of picking the right people. I’m from America, we have a girl from Brazil, Germany. It’s really going out there and finding these players with Portuguese heritage who want to represent the country. I think that’s important because Portugal’s such a small country and there are people out there with Portuguese heritage who do want to play internationally and want to play at this level and represent their family, and culture. Yeah, I think that he’s done a great job with that.”
What’s next for DaCosta? More football. She won’t be getting a break anytime soon. It’s up and back to the U.S. to rejoin the Boston Breakers. DaCosta has had a whirlwind of time between Boston, Portugal, and now back to Boston, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I mean, it doesn’t really stop,” admitted DaCosta. “I came right in the middle of my season, here. I haven’t had a break. They have a break, but it ends by the time I get back. We have a game Friday. I’m going right back into it, pretty much. I’ll be with the team on Thursday before the game, and just kind of take it from there, so no holidays for me.”
The Breakers came into the 2017 campaign with high(er) expectations, but a mid-season slump has them in a tricky spot to make the playoffs. DaCosta puts that down to a difficult travel schedule that hit Boston at the wrong time. The 8th place Breakers are going to have to regrou \p and get back to business following the international break.
“The NWSL is so competitive, and it can really change at any moment,” DaCosta said. “I think the Breakers have done well the past few games, and we’ve kind of started to dig ourselves out of a hole. We started the season off, extremely strong, and then we hit a point where we were playing a lot of really good teams and traveling a lot, too.
“If you’re familiar with NWSL, traveling in the United States isn’t easy. It’s far distances, and that puts a toll on you. It definitely matters when it’s right in the middle of your season. I think we were able to rebound off of that a little bit. I think we’ll only continue to get better.”
Whether she’s playing for Portugal or Boston, Amanda DaCosta loves playing football at the highest level. She’s helped show that Portugal is ready to prove that they are a team on the rise. The same can be said for the Breakers. DaCosta brings a terrific attitude and work ethic to any environment she’s involved in, and her future looks quite promising.