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No stranger to the UEFA European Under-19 Championship, Portugal's João Cancelo is determined to use last year's experience to drive his side on in Lithuania.
The SL Benfica defender featured when Portugal and Spain played out a thrilling 3-3 group stage draw in Estonia in 2012 and was once again a starter in the all-Iberian fixture on Saturday. This time Portugal suffered a narrow 1-0 defeat by opponents who ended with ten men following Héctor Bellerín's late red card.
"We came up against a very strong team but I thought it was an even game," the right-back said after Sandro Ramírez's 19th-minute goal settled affairs in Marijampole. "Spain had luck on their side. The atmosphere in our dressing room was fine afterwards, as we knew we still have two matches left to play against the Netherlands and Lithuania."
Describing himself as a "fast and technically good player" who competes in "an intense and aggressive manner", Cancelo's characteristics could be said to mirror those of his U19 coach Emilio Peixe, a 1991 FIFA U-20 World Cup winner with Portugal. "He is an example to us all because he played in and won that tournament," Cancelo – part of Portugal's run to the round of 16 at this summer's U20 finals Turkey just a few weeks ago – said of his coach. "He is a great person and we consider him a great friend too."
Peixe will next lead his charges into a crucial encounter against the Netherlands in Alytus on Tuesday before their Group A programme concludes with a fixture against hosts Lithuania. Having exited the tournament at the group phase last year, Cancelo is clear what his team need to do in order to avoid a repeat of that outcome in Lithuania.
"There are two games left, so six points to play for," he said. "These tournaments are important because we are facing the best teams in Europe and, forgetting any personal objectives I may have, the more important objective is a collective one. That goal is to play in the final of the European Under-19 Championship."
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