Having overseen a perfect qualifying campaign – six wins from as many matches – coach Hélio Sousa has every reason to believe Portugal can make an impact at the UEFA European Under-19 Championship.
UEFA.com: What are your thoughts on your Group A opponents: Hungary, Austria and Israel?
Hélio Sousa: Every one will be difficult. We know Hungary because we were here for a tournament in October; the other teams we know through their results and we'll start to get to know them better now.
UEFA.com: What are the strengths of your own team?
Sousa: We work with our strongest points to beat a team. We're getting there. Each game we are stronger and in the last game of the elite round [against Belgium] we were losing 2-0 and turned it around. Coming back from that scoreline was a big step; the boys were great and understand what they need to do to win these kinds of games.
UEFA.com: How do you look back on the elite round?
Sousa: We have room to improve. We had a great game with Greece, a very tough game which we won 3-0, and in the second game [a 3-2 win against Wales] we were very good too – efficient although in the last 20 minutes we weren't so strong. The last game against Belgium was a turning point in becoming a great team. We are getting there but we still have room to improve. To get big experience our best players have to play in big competitions so they can be better prepared for the future, rise through their teams, add more quality to our domestic championship and eventually reach the A team.
— Andrew Haslam (@UEFAcomAndrewH) July 8, 2014
UEFA.com: What are your expectations for the tournament?
Sousa: Our main objective is to reach the U-20 World Cup and then to go to the semi-finals here, but in each game we have to try to be the better team and play as well as we can. We can get to the semi-finals. We can beat anyone, but we have to be stronger in each game.
UEFA.com: Which teams are the favourites to win this tournament?
Sousa: Germany – not for their name but because this particular generation is a great team. Hungary are working well – they were a strong team in October and maybe even stronger now.
UEFA.com: How significant is this tournament?
Sousa: It is very important for us to be here because we try to give the best experiences in the best competitions for our best players. We qualified this year at U17 level and it was a great experience [to help] them be better tomorrow. This championship is also part of that process and if we can be in the U20 World Cup too, even better. When they step up to adult level, players are more capable of succeeding. They know this is important for them, they've worked very hard in the last year and gave it their all to be here. Now they are, so we're going to try to show what we can do.
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