Two years ago this July, Portugal pulled off a stunning 1-0 victory in extra time in the Final of UEFA Euro 2016 over France. It was the country’s first-ever title in the continental championship.
Meanwhile, Portugal native Martim Galvao was in Ocean City, New Jersey playing in a match for the Nor’easters of the PDL. He had to go home and watch the game on DVR. Luckily, he had someone by his side to share the moment.
“I had to go home after the game that I was playing and watch it all again, because I couldn’t miss the whole game,” Galvao said. “I wanted to watch the Final, and it was a great win. I was very, very happy.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t get to celebrate with my family and my friends, but I celebrated the way I could up there in New Jersey. I had another Portuguese friend of mine with me, so we tried to make the best of out of it.”
This year, Galvao is watching the 2018 World Cup with an immense sense of pride in his country, and with a personal connection to the team. Portugal winger Gelson Martins and Galvao were teammates on the Lisbon-based Sporting CP academy team, the same system that produced superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.
Seeing his longtime friend playing on the world’s biggest stage makes Galvao immensely proud.
“He’s a great player,” Galvao said. “I’m very, very proud of him. It’s great to see him in the squad because being in the World Cup is a huge goal for any soccer player, and I’m very happy for him for sure.”
Historically, Portugal has had a tough time winning at the highest levels of international soccer. Prior to the turn of the century, Portugal had qualified for just two World Cups, securing a third-place finish at the 1966 World Cup in England. Since 2002, they’ve been in all five tournaments, but have only finished as high as fourth place (2006).
Prior to the country’s Euro 2016 title, Portugal had suffered some heartbreaks. The country hosted Euro 2004 and the team made the Final before losing to Greece. Galvao hopes Portugal can ride the momentum from 2016 to a World Cup title in Russia in 2018.
“Hopefully this will be the one that will get us all the way to the Final, and we will bring the trophy home. I totally feel like we have the motivation and all the adrenaline that we still carry from that Euro 2016 that we were able to win, and hopefully that will get us far into this competition,” he said.
One of the primary reasons for Portugal’s resurgence on the world stage has been Ronaldo, easily the best player to ever come out of the Iberian nation. Having grown up in the academy system that helped turn Ronaldo into a superstar, Galvao has seen firsthand how Ronaldo has impacted his home country and the game of soccer there. That impact was on full display in Portugal’s World Cup opener vs. Spain in which Ronaldo had a hat trick to earn a hard-fought draw.
“He’s a phenomenal player,” Galvao said. “I have no words to describe what he has done for our country. He represents us at several different levels, and he’s probably our biggest ambassador for several years now, so he’s definitely someone who can make a difference in the game. Against Spain, it’s even more an accomplishment because they are our rival, and we always want to beat the Spaniards.”
While the world’s eyes will turn to soccer for the next month, Galvao will be watching his home team as it tries to make a push in the World Cup. As with any country, this will be an incredible month of sport and of national pride.
“I feel like the World Cup is a special event for any nation,” he said. “Portugal is a good nation in Europe, football is huge in Portugal, and we definitely live the sport with passion. So, every time we are in the World Cup, the whole country is fired up. The whole country stops every time we play. Nobody goes to work, they all stop to watch the game.”
Portugal will try to earn three pivotal points in group play when it takes on Morocco on Wednesday.