Portugal may have sealed their semi-final spot with a nerve-wracking shoot-out, but the youngest man in their midst never doubted their success: Renato Sanches.
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To observe Renato Sanches on a day-to-day basis is not only a privilege in footballing terms but also a lesson in how to deal with pressure. The 18-year-old personifies cool and calmness off the pitch in everything he does, but on it – even in training sessions – he is a monster.
No tackle is shirked and no quarter given to team-mates far senior and more experienced. At the beginning of this tournament he was not a starter. Now he appears as indispensable as Cristiano Ronaldo. The fearless young man has it all.
Put it this way. To be thrown in at the deep end, making your first start for your country in the quarter-finals of UEFA EURO 2016 is daunting. Couple it with the fact you have just completed a €35m move to Bayern München and the eyes of the world are on you and the pressure could well be too much. Not for Sanches.
He told us during the group stage that he was happy to wait for his opportunity and take things in his stride. When it finally presented itself he grasped it with both hands and is showing no signs of letting go.
A fantastic cameo against Croatia in the round of 16 saw him lead the breakaway that resulted in Ricardo Quaresma's extra-time winner.
Rewarded with a start against Poland, the spotlight was focused on him. With his country reeling having conceded the second-quickest EURO goal ever, it not was the likes of Ronaldo or Nani who got Portugal back into the game but Sanches.
Nominally playing on the right of a midfield diamond, his pace, power and directness were a real threat. It was exactly this plus a rasping drive that dragged his side back into it.
- All the build-up, action and reaction from Stade Vélodrome
- Sanches becomes third-youngest EURO scorer
A bold move by coach Fernando Santos, it was a gamble that truly paid off. Sanches became the youngest scorer in EURO knockout fixture history and Portugal were back in the game.
With the match taking a different course after the break, he switched to the left and had to play a more controlled role, aiding full-back Eliseu as Poland looked to overload through Łukasz Piszczek and Jakub Błaszczykowski. He was visibly tired in extra time, yet pushed on even when his legs seemed to be unable to go any further.
Next came penalties. Ronaldo went first and then, with the scores tied at 1-1, up stepped Sanches. The crowd held its breath. Quizzical looks fluttered around the press box. Too much pressure for a young man, surely? No chance.
"The coach asked who wanted to shoot. Cristiano was first and I said I would be second," he explained. "The coach had faith in me, and I was confident enough to ask."
Talking with such calm and poise, both Portugal and Bayern have themselves a real gem on their hands. Wales or Belgium beware.