Player Profile: Stephen Eustáquio, the Defensive Midfielder

CanMNT Midfielder Stephen Eustaquio Speaks During the Press Conference in Doha, Qatar

PREVIEW –  Stephen Eustáquio of FC Porto blossomed into the professional soccer scene in Europe. He is also one of the few CanMNT players who did not play in MLS/CPL and went straight into Europe. Eustáquio, the CanMNT’s tactical midfielder, plays for FC Porto in Portugal right now. He was probably Canada’s best player in the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup and is an important piece to Canada.

Stephen Eustáquio: The Tactical Defensive Midfielder

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Childhood and Family

Stephen Eustáquio was born in Leamington, Ontario on December 21, 2022. He was brought up in a middle-class family in Leamington. Eustáquio is also the youngest of two kids and was born to Portuguese parents. His older brother, Mauro Eustáquio, played for Cavalry FC in the Canadian Premier League in 2019. Mauro is now currently the assistant head coach of York United FC. Stephen Eustáquio’s first club was Leamington MS, which has been Stephen’s only team that he has played for in Canada.

According to Joe Lennox of Life Bogger, both his parents were born and grew up in Portugal. His brother, Mauro, played a big role in Stephen getting a role with the Canada U-17 team. According to Lennox’s article, Mauro put in a good word about his brother, after an internship selection with Mallorca.

In that same article, it was revealed that Eustáquio was always a defensive midfielder, but he needed to work on his technical skills. As a result, he found himself with Os Nazarenos for five years before moving to play for his youth team, Uniao de Leiria in 2010.

A player who admires both David Silva and Cristiano Ronaldo, Eustáquio emigrated to Nazaré, Portugal at the age of 11 according to Canada Soccer. S.C.U. Torreense was the team he played for in the third division.

This is what Stephen Eustáquio’s father, Armando Eustáquio, said about his son being on the FIFA World Cup according to Kurlis Mati of iHeartRADIO:

“It’s an amazing feeling to see your son playing at this level. The lifestyle isn’t easy, we started at the bottom and every year we grew up and reached the best teams in the world, and now he’s playing in the World Cup.”

Professional Club Journey

Leixões S.C. and G.D. Chaves

Stephen Eustaquio began his professional career with Leixões S.C. His first professional game was a 2-0 home win over Académico de Viseu F.C. in the first round of the Taça da Liga. He also made his debut in the Segunda Liga with a 4-1 loss to the Real Sport Clube. Eustáquio made 20 appearances for his first-ever pro club where he played senior minutes. He then made a big jump to G.D. Chaves in the same 2017-18 season.

Eustáquio’s next team was Grupo Desportivo de Chaves in the first tier of the Portuguese league. In that season, he scored his first-ever professional goal for the club.

Cruz Azul and F.C. Paços de Ferreira

Eustáquio then moved to Cruz Azul, but that was probably the most tumultuous time for him. He got an injury in his very first game according to Vamos Azul. He would never again play for the club. In fact, people thought that his future was very much in doubt when he recovered from the injury. This was also the only time Eustáquio played soccer professionally outside the country of Portugal.

Still, Eustáquio had an appreciation for the Mexican fans despite the rough time with Cruz Azul as he said this to toldTUDN journalist Adrián Esparza Oteo (source: Vamos Azul).

“I don’t want to talk, but I send a big hug to all the people in Mexico.”

However, Eustaquio got his career back on track with F.C. Paços de Ferreira. He made 65 appearances for the club and scored two goals in the process. His first goal came on October 24 against Nacional. That game ended in a draw, and six days later, he scored a goal against FC Porto.

This is what Kundert said in Alan Feehely’s article in the World Football Index:

“He’s a lovely player,” Portuguese football expert Tom Kundert told WFi.  “Not too eye-catching but everything he does, he does well. At his best, he can really control a game. And he has a very high footballing IQ.  “It’s surprising he’s still at Paços, but I’m sure he’ll move on to a bigger club soon, maybe even one of Portugal’s big three.”

FC Porto

Eustáquio would get that chance with FC Porto as he played for the team via a loan for eight games. This season though, so far, has been his best. He played only 11 games this year and has scored two goals. He also scored two goals in the Champions League to help FC Porto qualify for the Round of 16. For a defensive midfielder, that is very impressive.

National Team Career with the CanMNT

READ MORE: The 2022 CanMNT World Cup Preview: Looking to Make History

Eustáquio’s career with the CanMNT started in 2019. His first-ever game was a 4-1 loss to the U.S. in the Concacaf Nations League.

He made a big impact with the national team in the Concacaf Gold Cup, scoring three goals, and having a critical assist. In particular, he scored a goal and assisted in Junior Hoilett’s goal against Costa Rica in the quarterfinals. As a result, Canada made the semi-finals stage of the Concacaf Gold Cup for the first time since 2007.

This is what Herdman said about Eustaquio according to Chris Jones of CBC Sports:

“The tactical conversations we have, the tiny micro details on his physical preparation, it’s next level.”  Eustáquio is so hard on himself, so limitless in his aspirations, he can leave his coach feeling like an imposter, unable to meet the same measures. “If you have a day off, you know it,” Herdman said. “If you’re below his standard, you know it. He pushes us as hard as we push him.”

The 25-year-old midfielder is a key player for the CanMNT. He played very well against Belgium, where Kevin De Bruyne was left largely quiet. In fact, Eustaquio was able to compete and get past de Bruyne in one particular play in particular and give a scoring chance to Jonathan David.

Games Coming Up For the CanMNT

READ MORE: Player Profile: Atiba Hutchinson, the CanMNT’s Reliable Captain

Unfortunately, the CanMNT are out of the FIFA World Cup after losing to Croatia 4-1. There is still something to play for as Canada looks to make history. A win would really mean something for this national team, which has never gotten a result previously in a FIFA World Cup. And if that does happen, Eustáquio could very well play a big part in that result.

The game will be televised nationally in Canada on TSN and CTV at 10:00 AM ET on Thursday. It will also be televised live in Quebec.