A 100% qualifying run has not fooled coach Emílio Peixe as to the task Portugal face at the U17 finals; "we could easily go home after three games," he told UEFA.com.
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Emílio Peixe told UEFA.com "it is a privilege to be among the eight best teams in Europe" as his Portugal side compete in the UEFA European Under-17 Championship for the first time since 2010. However, while six straight wins paved Portugal's way to Malta, the 12-cap former international midfielder, 41, knows that Scotland, Germany and Switzerland will present much sterner opposition in Group B.
UEFA.com: Portugal qualified for the finals in style, winning all six of their games. How do you rate the team's performance so far?
Emílio Peixe: We had six victories in six matches, but more important than that was the increase in the quality of our game over the course of this qualification campaign, both collectively and individually.
UEFA.com: What do you expect from your opening match, against Scotland?
Peixe: We expect to face a very aggressive and competitive team. They have some players that are technically very capable and that read the game with a maturity that goes well beyond their years. Most of those players already compete at the U19 level and play with a very high intensity.
UEFA.com: How do you rate your other Group B rivals, Germany and Switzerland?
Peixe: Germany are a very strong team who always play at a high level, with players that can decide a game individually with their creativity. Switzerland usually have good defensive organisation and have very fast and technical players up front. We are in a very strong group, considering what our rivals have done so far in the competition. But at this level, in the finals of a European championship, the groups will always be tough.
UEFA.com: Portugal took on Germany and two other finals contenders – England and the Netherlands – in a friendly tournament in the Algarve in March and got three draws. What did you learn from those games?
Peixe: We were stretched by facing three of the best teams in Europe, and our young players got the chance to learn how to deal with different styles of play. The most important thing was that we felt that our team kept developing.
UEFA.com: What would you say are your side's main strengths?
Peixe: Our commitment to work hard, always with a positive attitude and, above all, our will to learn and develop at the highest level, always with the goal of getting better in every aspect of the game.
UEFA.com: Portugal were U17 champions in 2003 but this is only the nation's third final tournament since then. What does qualifying this time mean for Portuguese football?
Peixe: First of all, that statistic shows how difficult it is to get to the finals and that it is a privilege to be among the eight best teams in Europe. For youth football in Portugal, this represents an opportunity to demonstrate the work that is being done at development level.
UEFA.com: What is Portugal's target in Malta?
Peixe: To enjoy it and to chase our dream, knowing that we could easily be going home after three games, but also that we can make it right through the finish line. All eight teams have legitimate hopes of getting to the final and clinching the trophy.