If Portugal are seeking a calming influence ahead of their vital UEFA European Under-19 Championship Group B encounter with Croatia, they should look no further than midfielder Danilo, who is confident of his team's ability to progress.
Ilídio Vale's squad have experienced a range of emotions at this tournament, beginning with the joy of a 2-0 victory in their opening game against 2003 winners Italy. In their subsequent fixture against Spain, the Portuguese also recovered from going behind to an early Daniel Pacheco strike when Rúben Pinto equalised spectacularly 12 minutes from time. However, in the final throes of the match Pacheco scored again to send the four-time winners into the semi-finals.
"At the end of the Spain game there was a bit of disbelief because of the way it ended," SL Benfica prospect Danilo told UEFA.com. "We obviously weren't expecting to concede a goal shortly before the final whistle but in general we couldn't keep the ball as we wanted. We struggled a bit at the start with our defensive line very deep. There are many things to improve if we want to beat Croatia. We'll have to give everything to come away with a good result."
Portugal know a draw with Croatia in Bayeux would put them in the semi-finals alongside group winners Spain, yet with their opponents on Saturday also harbouring hopes of making the last four, Danilo accepts his side must be at their best. "It will be a very physical match with a lot of contact and a lot of direct play," the 18-year-old explained. "We'll have to try and counter that by playing our own game, which means having the ball at our feet and using the wings. If we play like that we can get a positive result."
Having begun his career with Arsenal 72 Futebol – a Lisbon-based youth team – Danilo was picked up by GD Estoril Praia before impressing scouts at Benfica. The defensive midfielder scored five goals in 31 appearances for the club's B team last term, leaving him on the verge of the senior squad. "Playing in my position you need to be very focused and to support your colleagues," he said. "On the field I'm very calm and my first pass is my best asset." Danilo will hope to use those talents to push Portugal towards a first U19 title.
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