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2015: William Carvalho

Published: Friday 10 July 2015, 9.30CET
William Carvalho's last kick of the 2015 UEFA European Under-21 Championship led to despair for Portugal, but his role in getting them to the final was peerless.
by Nuno Tavares
from Prague
2015: William Carvalho
William Carvalho had a splendid tournament despite finishing as a runner-up with Portugal ©Getty Images
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Published: Friday 10 July 2015, 9.30CET

2015: William Carvalho

William Carvalho's last kick of the 2015 UEFA European Under-21 Championship led to despair for Portugal, but his role in getting them to the final was peerless.

William Carvalho arrived in the Czech Republic with a growing reputation matched only by the responsibility on his shoulders. Despite coming into the tournament off the back of a season in which he had already played more than 50 times and become a regular senior international, he was quick to declare his motivation. "When you represent your country, it doesn't matter how many games you played in a season or at what level you do it," said the Angolan-born midfielder soon after linking up with Rui Jorge's squad in Otrokovice. "You don't feel tired or discouraged. I couldn't be more honoured or motivated to be here."

William's imposing figure and shrewdness on the ball were quickly to the fore in Portugal's opening 1-0 victory against England. He seemed to raise the bar by the minute, with both Italy and Sweden struggling to cope with his control and composure, not to mention the relentless drive that meant he covered more ground than any other player in the group stage. He was also particularly influential in providing cover to allow the more creative Bernardo Silva and Ivan Cavaleiro to wreak havoc going forward.

William's performance reached a new high in the highly-anticipated semi-final against Germany. The prospect of facing Liverpool FC's Emre Can and FC Bayern München-bound Joshua Kimmich may have unnerved some, but for a player who already had 13 caps to his name it was merely an invitation to assert his authority. The image of William, cool as ice, sending his adversaries scattering while launching attack after attack will remain etched on the minds of all those watching Portugal's remarkable 5-0 victory that day.

William picked up from where he left off in the early stages of the final against Sweden but Portugal did not make their superiority tell and eventually succumbed on penalties, their star midfielder the unfortunate one to miss the decisive spot kick. A mark of the man, however, was that he was gracious in defeat and quick to try to lift his team-mates in their darkest hour. The mark of a real champion.

Previous winners
2013: Thiago Alcántara
2011: Juan Mata
2009: Marcus Berg
2007: Royston Drenthe
2006: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar
2004: Alberto Gilardino
2002: Petr Čech
2000: Andrea Pirlo
1998: Francesc Arnau
1996: Fabio Cannavaro
1994: Luís Figo
1992: Renato Buso
1990: Davor Šuker
1988: Laurent Blanc
1986: Manuel Sanchís
1984: Mark Hateley
1982: Rudi Völler
1980: Anatoliy Demyanenko
1978: Vahid Halilhodžić

Last updated: 10/07/15 13.50CET

http://www.uefa.com/under21/season=2015/golden-player/index.html#2015+william+carvalho