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Portugal may have suffered UEFA European Under-19 Championship heartache in the tournament's last four after a penalty shoot-out loss to Serbia, but midfielder Bernardo Silva said he was proud to play "in a game worthy of a semi-final."
Having reached this stage of the competition for the first time since 2003, Portugal's bid for a maiden trophy win looked strong when they converted their opening two kicks of the shoot-out and Marko Pavlovski fired Serbia's first penalty against the post. However, Alexandre Guedes and João Teixeira both had efforts saved by Predrag Rajković either side of Luís Rafael shooting over the bar, and despite saving from Dejan Meleg, Bruno Varela was powerless to prevent Aleksandar Mitrović scoring the winner.
"I thought we started the game a little slowly but overall felt we were the better team and didn't deserve to go out," Silva told UEFA.com. "
Although we are obviously sad we lost today, it's been a really good experience for us to be at this tournament."
That slow start was punished by Uroš Djurdjević's sixth-minute opener. Portugal responded with second-half goals from Silva and Guedes and were just five minutes from victory when Mijat Gačinović found space down their left flank and cut inside to shoot low past Varela and send the game into extra time.
"It was a good match and worthy of a European championship semi-final," Silva continued. "I have good memories of these finals despite the fact that we lost the first and last matches. It was a very good experience for me as a player. It helped me to grow, even at this early stage of my career."
Varela was also taking the positives from his side's exit, pointing to the developing "unity" among Emílio Peixe's squad. "We were like a group of brothers here," he said. "
During the matches all of the guys on our bench were cheering those who were playing. That was a key factor, not only during this tournament but also in qualifying. Our humility also played an important role.
"When I am sitting on the plane home I will think of just how close we came to reaching the final and I will realise that we gave everything we had here," the goalkeeper added. "These shirts weigh a lot, and by that I mean it's not everyone who can play for Portugal. I believe we honoured our country's colours. We cried together in the dressing room but all of that sadness will remain here because we know we did so much to reach the final. There will be no more tears or sadness when we head back to Portugal."
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