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Leitão, Portugal in fine fettle for Italy tie

Portugal have never been "as prepared as we are now" for a semi-final on Thursday against Italy, Leitão told UEFA.com as he looked forward to facing club-mate Stefano Mammarella.

Leitão poses for UEFA.com outside the Portugal team hotel in central Antwerp
Leitão poses for UEFA.com outside the Portugal team hotel in central Antwerp ©Sportsfile

Portugal had to wait 21 years and 17 matches to register their first win against Italy but, as they prepare to face the Azzurri in the UEFA Futsal EURO 2014 semi-finals on Thursday, Leitão believes Jorge Braz's men have what it takes to emulate the outcome of their last meeting: a 4-2 friendly victory 12 months ago.

The 33-year-old is the right man to assess Portugal's chances of reaching the final as he now plays in Italy for Acquaesapone Emmegross C/5, where a certain goalkeeper named Stefano Mammarella – who has shone for the 2003 winners in this tournament – is his club-mate. "He is one of the best goalkeepers in the world," Leitão told UEFA.com. "It will be special to play against him, for sure, but I want to score a goal or two."

Portugal had to be at their best to beat Ukraine 2-1 in the quarter-finals and Leitão feels the side are finally showing what they lacked in previous championships, despite featuring some of the most talented players in the game. "I truly believe we were never as prepared as we are now," he explained.

"In the past we put on a spectacle in each game, but when the decisive moment came we failed. In this EURO we are still playing attractive futsal, but with another kind of mentality. We are much more focused and I hope that can make all the difference against Italy.

"It was very important for us that we managed to finally beat them. They were our bogey team, a kind of persistent nightmare which always returns. However, a semi-final at a European Championship is a completely different story. We respect them a lot, but we believe in our own quality and I believe we have a very good chance to prevail."

Portugal's record against Italy is anything but encouraging, yet Leitão is maintaining a positive outlook. "We don't have to think about the past. Most of the players who are here were not even involved in all those matches against them. Only our team is important, not our opponents. This group of players deserve to be in the final and will do everything in our power to secure that."

Having never scored in five appearances against Italy, Leitão will not get carried away if he corrects that statistic. "It's all about the team and not the individual," he said. "We are thinking one game at a time and for the moment I just want to wake up Friday morning and know we are in the final."

The man determined to spoil that dream only has words of praise for the Portugal forward. "Leitão, the great Leitão," enthused Mammarella. "He is a great player. He is experienced and he is giving a lot to Portugal. We will have to be very careful with him." His colleagues have been warned.