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Portugal's Esgaio braced for contest with Germany

Portugal right-back Ricardo Esgaio might joke about shaving his head if his team go all the way at the U21 EURO but he knows a tough task awaits in their Olomouc semi-final.

Ricardo Esgaio on the ball during the 1-0 win over England
Ricardo Esgaio on the ball during the 1-0 win over England ©AFP/Getty Images

They were joking in the Portugal camp on Thursday that if they go all the way and win the UEFA Under-21 European Championship, some players might be moved to shave their heads in celebration.

Right-back Ricardo Esgaio is among the number considering a close crop but right now his focus is fixed entirely on the task of brushing aside a "very powerful" Germany team in the semi-finals. A 1-1 draw against Sweden on the final day of Group B action was enough for Portugal to finish top and qualify for both the last four of this competition and the 2016 Olympic Games, but for Esgaio the job is not yet finished.

"We celebrated in a very relaxed way as there's really not much time for that," he said. "We already have another match in two days' time so basically it's back to what we do best – working very hard. We have been watching Germany's matches and we can see that they are a very consistent team but for us the most important thing is to recover well in terms of our physical condition."

Fatigue could play a part in Saturday's first semi-final in Olomouc, though according to Esgaio the advantage does not rest entirely with a Germany side who will have had an extra day for recuperation. "Our opponents will rest one more day compared with us but on the other hand they have a long journey ahead of them," said a player who spent the second half of 2014/15 on loan at Académica de Coimbra from Sporting CP. "We just need to recover well so we can be in the best possible condition."

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As for Tozé, who appeared as a late substitute in Portugal's second game against Italy, their success so far is down to the special feeling in the camp. "The key to all these results comes down to the fact we are like a family," said the Estoril playmaker. "All the players go on to the pitch knowing that they have the support of everyone on the sidelines. It doesn't matter if you play or are on the bench; we all fight for Portugal."

Coach Rui Jorge has always previously suggested that securing a place in next year's Olympic Games was his main objective for this tournament but now that mission is accomplished, maybe both he and his players can start thinking about something even more special.

"We all dream about lifting the trophy and to finish our journey through Portugal's youth teams with such a win would be the icing on the cake, but right now we are only thinking about beating Germany," added Esgaio.

If they do, they will be just one step away from the trophy – and a radical new look. "I have a bet with Ricardo Esgaio and Tiago Ilori that we will shave our heads if we become European champions," explained Tozé, who would surely find a few Lisbon barbers willing to do it for free.

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