Portugal begin their France 2016 adventure with the hope to go as far as they went during the 2004 edition where a selecçao Das Quinas lost the final against outsiders Greece.
A 19-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo was part of a team with some elite players like Luis Figo and Deco alongside some of the country's reference such as Ricardo, Pauleta, Nuno Gomes and Nuno Valente with that valuable pearls forming part of the team, the destiny pointed to some guys that the odds gave 80-1 chances to become Champions as they finally were.
For this time, Portugal arrive in good shape with not just a grown up in-form Cristiano Ronaldo but with the addition of new jewels that could push the team to title like that one that escaped from their hands in the Estadio Da luz in Lisbon.
The tournament's draw was benevolent with the lusos giving the supporters enough optimism to dream again especially when this team have reached four semi-finals in six appearances but at the same time, they know that the absence of a proper striker could diminish their chances.
All the fingers point to CR7, a real threat towards the goal but it is certainly a risk playing him upfront where loneliness could affect other areas where the three times Ballon d'Or winner is very effective. Having him as a left winger with Nano or Quaresma on the right side could be an option.
We can't continue this article without talking about Renato Sanches, a 18-year-old midfielder that has been converted in Portugal's new pearl after taking the football scenario by storm in a meteoric career that lifted him from a poor neighbourhood in Lisbon to play in Benfica before signing a €35 millions transfer to Bayern Munich, not a bad business for a chap that cost them €750, plus the promise of 25 footballs for his local club Aguias.
But to be fair, Portugal's real strength could be coach Fernando Santos, a pragmatic manager with an enviable record not just with Porto, Benfica and Sporting CP but with Greece where he lost six of 49 games while in charge. The reason of such a success relied on a solid defence, something that worries this time because the ageing central defenders.
Ronaldo has said that one of thing to scratch from his bucket list is lifting a trophy with his country and the magic formula, this time, could be having him scoring lots of goals supported by the new talented midfielders avoiding any attack that could come from the centre.
Portugal is an unopened oyster that looks like a closed cataplana, a sort of pan made of copper and shaped like two clamshells that are using to cook a delicious dish with fish and seafood. Following the recipe bellow, after opening the cataplana, you will be delighted with the lovely ingredients slow-cooked to perfection.
If Ronaldo and CO show their real potential Portugal can reveal their hidden pearls to finally grab the title that in 2004 was so near for them.
Portuguese Seafood or Cataplana
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 ounce linguica sausage or fresh chorizo, removed from the casing
1 1/2 tablespoons sliced shallot, optional
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 pound fresh manila clams
1 1/2 ounces medium-size shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup crushed vine ripe tomatoes, fresh or canned
2 tablespoons white wine
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 lemon, cut into wedges, for serving
Using a cataplana pan or shallow-sided pot with cover, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook until lightly browned. Add the shallots, if using, and garlic cooking them for 1 to 2 minutes until softened.
Add the clams, shrimp, tomatoes, wine and some paprika. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and steam gently over medium to medium-low heat for 4 to 5 minutes or until the clams are opened and the shrimp turn to pink.
Taste for seasoning. Sprinkle with the remaining oil, the chopped parsley and a squeeze of lemon. Serve directly out of the pan.
You can also check-out Chef Alberto Carvalho's video to have another approach on how to prepare Cataplana.