Time for reconciliation as Portugal’s national team were trying to recover after the damage that had been inflicted on them with the infamous scandal, caused by an internal turmoil, that broke out during the 1986 World Cup. Their chances in the last Euro qualifiers were consequently more or less spoiled, but in 1988 there was renewed optimism before the start of the 1990 qualification in Group 7, as manager Juca again had a full-strength squad to choose from. Did this mean that Portugal were back to the level of the team from the mid-80s?
The outspring of Portugal’s trouble the last couple of years had been the so-called Saltillo affair: a player uprising during the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, when several players threatened to launch a strike, followed by general unrest in the squad and infuriation in the Portuguese media. In the wake of the scandals that took place under the 1986 World Cup, the inexperienced Ruy Seabra had controversially been appointed manager for Portugal. Under his new policy, some of the players that had been most impelling during the unrest were left out of the squad. This meant that Portugal had been missing several key players in their campaign for the 1988 Euro. Although his team did not do too badly, they failed to qualify and hit a low when they played a disappointing draw against Malta.
After the latter result, Ruy Seabra was sacked and the federation wanted someone who could bring reconciliation to the national team and bring Portugal to Italia’90. In Juca, the Portuguese federation found a trusted figure who could bringe a sense of continuity with the past. Born in 1929 and a manager for almost 30 years, only Guy Thys was older than Juca in the European qualification zone (This would also prove to be Juca’s ultimate manager job). A sense of optimism could be justified.
Juca’s immediate problem when he took over was to establish a new team. He recalled some of the key players that had been left out by Ruy Seabra, but also had the need to map the situation in Portuguese football and find new players. With the national team in shambles for some time, there was no longer any general consensus on the team selection in Portugal. Surprisingly, the federation didn’t follow up this by arranging international friendlies for Juca to assess his players. Ahead of the first qualifier for Italia’90, Portugal played only one friendly, while Juca certainly could have needed at least three.
Friendly: Sweden 0-0 Portugal
Portugal (5-4-1): Silvino – Toni Conceição, Oliveira, Morato, F Mendes, Nunes – Jaime Magalhães (Vítor Paneira h-t), Oceano, A Sousa, Chalana (F Gomes 79) – Jordão (c)
In Portugal’s first (!) international of ’88, they were held by Sweden in a game in which Vítor Paneira came on for the start of the second half for his first cap. Juca had fielded an inexperienced side in which 36 year old striker Jordão had been recalled for his 41st cap and was made captain. Portugal had deployed defensive tactics, only interested in a scoreless draw, playing five at the back and four across midfield.