Though Portugal's UEFA European Under-17 Championship campaign is now over following Sunday's semi-final defeat by England, Emilio Peixe was fiercely proud of his young charges' displays in Malta.
"There's a real sense of sadness at having been knocked out, but what I'd focus on at this moment is the huge feeling of pride I have for the whole campaign these players have had," Peixe said. "They all deserve to be congratulated for that."
Indeed, the Portuguese players could leave Malta with their heads held high, having once again contributed an entertaining brand of play which only just failed to reap its reward. "We were clearly the best team at this European Championship," added Peixe. "We had the best players and played the best football so we ought to be pleased about that. This is a process and this will help us grow as a team and be successful in the future."
Portugal struck the woodwork three times in the first half of their semi-final loss, though Peixe did not dwell on that misfortune. "That's football," he said. "What we're left with are somewhat mixed feelings regarding the result but, I repeat, I'm really pleased and really proud of how my players have performed."
Group B victories against Scotland, Switzerland and Germany had extended Portugal's record of not having conceded a competitive goal since last October – in a 2-1 qualifying round victory over Montenegro – to seven matches. England finally discovered the key to unlocking that defence Sunday.
From start to finish, Portugal notched nine straight victories until a reverse which ended their hopes of glory but failed to dent their coach's belief. "They've proven they've got quality, they've shown great character at all times and we've got to be pleased with the campaign we had," Peixe continued.
"When we came here, our objective was for these players to compete at the very highest level, and they've taken good advantage. Like I mentioned before, in the future I'm certain we'll continue to grow, we'll get better and better and if we keep playing this way we'll get closer to winning titles."
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