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Undefeated Portugal book finals return

Published: Thursday 31 May 2012, 21.53CET
Following a year away, Portugal returned to the UEFA European Under-19 Championship finals in style after the elite round hosts topped Group 4 undefeated.
Undefeated Portugal book finals return
Ricardo Esgaio of Portugal celebrates a goal against the Republic of Ireland ©FPF
Published: Thursday 31 May 2012, 21.53CET

Undefeated Portugal book finals return

Following a year away, Portugal returned to the UEFA European Under-19 Championship finals in style after the elite round hosts topped Group 4 undefeated.

Portugal topped Group 4 undefeated and with only one goal conceded to book their place in Estonia, ensuring a return to the UEFA European Under-19 Championship final tournament after a one-year absence.

Edgar Borges' side were hosts and favourites to win the section, but their opening match was anything but straightforward as they required an 87th-minute own goal by Michael Barker to overcome the Republic of Ireland in an even contest in Olhao.

Ukraine meanwhile, saw off Israel 2-0 in Parchal to set themselves up as the biggest threat to Portugal's chances of qualification, goals from Vladyslav Kulach (18) and Mykyta Polyulyakh (71) doing the damage. They then made little work of despatching Ireland on matchday two, as a 14-minute triple salvo from Borys Tashchy (52), Vyacheslav Churko (55), and Anton Bratkov (66) gave Ukraine an impressive 3-0 win.

Portugal, however, dominated their next match, putting seven goals past an overwhelmed Israel. Edgar Ié (8) gave his side the perfect start, before João Mário and Ricardo Esgaio both scored in the two minutes before half-time to give Portugal a commanding lead. André Gomes (47) started the second period in the same vein, and although Roi Atar (59) scored a consolation, Betinho (75, 81) and Ivan Cavaleiro (77) completed an emphatic win.

The stage was set for a thrilling finale in Faro-Loule, as only two goals separated leaders Portugal from Ukraine as they jostled for top spot. The tension lasted 35 minutes, before Agostinho Cá put Portugal into the lead. The hosts controlled the game and goals in the second half from Betinho (58) and Bruma (61) put the match beyond Ukraine, grabbing themselves a place in the final eight in Estonia and leaving their opponents still searching for their first qualification for the tournament since winning it as hosts in 2009.

"We are very happy and deservedly won," said Borges. "We played against good teams but we were best. I'm going to rest for a few days and then start thinking about the final tournament in Estonia. There will be great teams playing and any of them could be the winners. We want to qualify for the Under-20 World Cup so our goal is to qualify from the group at least, but I think it could be more."

Last updated: 31/05/12 22.23CET

http://www.uefa.com/under19/news/newsid=1795146.html#undefeated+portugal+book+finals+return

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