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Silva puts Portugal progress down to team spirit

As Portugal prepare for a first UEFA European Under-19 Championship semi-final since 2003, midfielder Leandro Silva says a "close and united team" can go even further.

Portugal's Leandro Silva fires in a shot against Lithuania
Portugal's Leandro Silva fires in a shot against Lithuania ©Saulius Čirba

Leandro Silva says a "close and united team" has helped propel Portugal into the UEFA European Under-19 Championship semi-finals and believes the same virtues could take them even further.

Emílio Peixe's side responded to losing their opening Group A match against Spain by recording emphatic victories against the Netherlands and Lithuania to progress as runners-up to their neighbours, scoring four goals in each of those wins. "That obviously builds your confidence," Silva told UEFA.com. "It's good to be scoring goals, because your mood gets better and better."

The FC Porto midfielder pointed to the 4-1 triumph against the Netherlands as a pivotal point of the Portuguese campaign, adding: "That match increased our confidence for the next game, which we knew we just needed to win and we managed to do it. [Against Lithuania] we were always in control; we kept the ball and the goals came naturally.

"We are growing during this competition," he went on. "In the first match, we didn't score the goal that would have made it a fair result; we did very well against the Netherlands in an offensive sense and [in the third game] we were very organised and proved our quality again. We're delighted with that."

Silva sat out the defeat by Spain through suspension, but laughed off the suggestion that his return has been crucial to Portugal's subsequent improvement. "No, no, no, no, no! I'm just one of many who try to help the team win. We are a close and united team. It's all about the group, not individuals. For me, it has been a very good tournament for my development as a player. I'm getting better and better, but the most important goal is collective, not individual – I'm just here to be one hand to help the team."

The next task for the squad is a first U19 semi-final since 2003, and Silva recognises finally qualifying for the knockout stages again is a significant feat. "Reaching the semi-finals is superb for us," he said. "Portugal haven't been in the semi-finals for ten years; that's a long time and we're delighted to be the team to do it again. We'll keep doing what we've done so far, and just looking at one game at a time."

That next game is against a Serbia side who performed impressively in finishing top of Group B although, while acknowledging the need for some quick yet thorough study of the opponents, Silva prefers to focus on Portugal. "We have to play [the semi-final] like we have played every game so far," he said. "We've been doing very well. We have to be humble and we have to treat this like it's our final – so we can go through to the decisive match of the tournament."