Portugal, 1984 – the team that was numbered backwards
- This guest post by Gabriel Vogas is an English adaptation of a section of an original article published in Portuguese in Cultura FC.
At Euro 84, Portugal ended up with such curious numbering that it made me suspicious that, apart from the goalkeepers (1, 12 and 20 in a 20-man roster), it was made in reverse on purpose.
It was only afterwards, that I found articles in the Portuguese press and statements from members of that team (like this one from António Souza) that confirms that the numbers were picked by chance because the athletes from Benfica and from Porto fought about everything, including jersey numbers.
Portugal reached the semi-finals, losing only to hosts and eventual champions France after extra time at the semi-final stage. Here is how they lined out in the four games – against Germany and Spain (left), the same 11 started in the home kit, while there were slight changes against Romania (middle) and then France (right)
The only 1-11 player that didn’t make a appearance in the tournament was Vermelhinho (5), but even his jersey was coherent with a reverse numbering, as he was an offensive midfielder/attacking winger at Porto.
We could even draw to imaginary line-ups using only the players from 1-11, as seen below. The first one, a 4-3-3, but it is the second one, that nowadays would be a 4-1-3-2, that would put the team in perfect reverse numbering (apart the full-backs, 8 and 9, forming a separate line to the centre-backs, 10 and 11). This imaginary 4-1-3-2 would be an unlikely line-up for being extremely offensive (and with a few adaptations, i.e. the central backs swapping sides), but it wasn’t absurd, as Portugal indeed used a 4-2-4 against Romania when they desperately needed a goal to qualify.
The third image, the same imaginary 4-3-3 is numbered to what the players used to wear before that tournament, according to the Portuguese press: Jordão (3) used to be 11, Chalana (4) wore 10, Nené (2) wore 7 and Gomes (6) wore 9.
To fill the gaps on the rest of the team, I used the numbering of the players at Benfica and Porto, with some adaptation here and there where players wore the same number (as would happen also in the attacking line, i.e. Chalana wore 9 for Benfica and 10 for Portugal). And it was relatively easy to find those numberings because:
- Apart from Rui Jordão (Sporting) and the backup GKs, all the other players were from Benfica (eight) or Porto (nine);
- Benfica and Porto were involved in European finals in 1983 and 1984 (Benfica lost the 1983 Uefa Cup Final to Anderlecht and Porto lost the 1984 Cup Winners’ Final to Juventus)
Even more curious when digging that was to see that, in the clubs, the numbers weren’t only really traditionally assigned, but also that Benfica employed a renumbered system that was really logical for its 4-4-2 (sometimes the attacking duo changed sides, but what attacking duo don’t?).
How lucky Portugal was in their numbering lottery. Or how unlucky, depending on who you ask. But for us, squad numbers fans, I’m glad it happened that way, otherwise it wouldn’t even be noticed.
- Gabriel is a Brazilian copywriter, football researcher and author of the sites Cultura FC and Uniformes CFC.