The World cup is just a few months away… and one place to see world-class soccer is Portugal. With SATA – professional world-class soccer is just 4 hours away. Soccer (futebol) is the most popular sport in Portugal today - and despite a population of just 10 million people, Portugal ranks 5th in the world on the FIFA/Coca-Cola Ranking. In fact, there are 135,000 professional players in Portugal, and it’s top teams are some of the best in Europe.
The Selecção, the Portuguese national team – that will compete this summer in Brazil – placed 3rd in the 1966 World Cup, and fourth in 2006. They were in the semi-finals or finals in the Euro in 1984, 2000, 2004, and 2012. You can see many of the players who will be stars on Portuguese major league teams right now, before they head to Brazil for the World Cup.
Soccer has been played in Portugal since 1875. The nation’s top major league – the Primeira Liga, was founded in 1934. Teams like SL Benfica, FC Porto and Sporting are powerhouses, playing in state of the art stadiums. In fact, Portuguese teams have won the prestigious European Cup four times and the UEFA Cup twice.
As for players, Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the best in the world today, and names like Pauleta, Eusebio, Figo and others are legends in the game.
In the Azores, the top team is Santa Clara – based in Ponta Delgada. Santa Clara is the only team from the Azores to ever play in Portugal’s major league, where they competed for three seasons. The team is highly competitive, and offers European soccer in the closest stadium to the US. The best-known player from the Azores is Pauleta – who scored 47 goals in 88 games for the Portuguese national team, a national record at the time.