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The Portuguese come equipped with better fortifications, and act more on holding one's borders. The only other reliable way to push one's borders is through cities, which is limited to a maximum number so it can only go so far. So it would serve the player well to anchor their nation with these forts and tower in as many places as possible, and research one's border and attrition techs as much as possible to take full advantage of its effects. Enemies will doubly be under the effect of attrition and defensive building fire. This should be advantageous in both defence, as well as offence if one wishes to border push on an enemy. The cities which Portuguese forts protect also pull their weight by generating wealth, commerce cap willing.
With the support of a strong navy, the Portuguese also excel at amphibious warfare, since early-era fortifications are often fairly weak and easily overrun with sufficient numbers. This boon, however, can last only so long as you do your fighting in the pre-Imperial era. After this, however, Portugal has a sub-standard army ill-equipped to deal with the likes of rifled guns, aircraft and even tanks.
If so, Portugal however has one advantage left: it has the ability to spawn missionaries from a Presidium, who are capable of converting units to your cause. Unlike spies, missionaries have a fair bit of hitpoints and good line of sight, and cost knowledge and wealth as opposed to metal and wealth.