A late call-up to the Sweden squad, Victor Lindelöf is plotting the downfall of his old Benfica team-mate Bernardo Silva as he looks to make a name for himself at the U21 EURO.
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Ten days ago Victor Lindelöf was not even part of the Sweden squad for the UEFA European Under-21 Championship. Now he is preparing to stop one of the stars of the tournament and a player with whom he enjoyed great success at Benfica – Bernardo Silva – as the Scandinavians take on Portugal for the place in the semi-finals.
Lindelöf was due to start his U21 career in the qualifying campaign for the 2017 finals that begins in September, only to receive a late call-up when Emil Krafth picked up an injury in the 2-2 draw with fellow finalists Denmark on 11 June. The 20-year-old came on at half-time in the opening win against Italy before playing for all of the late 1-0 loss to England.
He said it will be "a bit special" to take on a number of familiar faces in Uherske Hradiste on Wednesday night. "I know a lot of guys in the Portugal team, of course, as I've played in Portugal for three years. I know all about their qualities and have talked with Bruno [Varela] and Bernardo [Silva]. We talked about how fun it would be to play against each other. Portugal are a good team – good players, good on the ball, good technique."
Bernardo typifies that statement, his skills having already earned him successive Man of the Match awards in the Czech Republic. "I played with Bernardo for two years and know just how good he is," continued Lindelöf, who teamed up with the playmaker after joining Benfica in December 2011.
The pair helped the Eagles soar in the Portuguese youth championship in 2012/13 – Lindelöf played four times in a title-winning campaign in which Bernardo scored 18 goals in 36 games.
The following season they stepped up to Benfica B (Lindelöf scoring twice in 33 games; Bernardo seven in 38) before ending the campaign by both coming on for the first team in the final game of the season – a loss at Porto not dampening further title celebrations.
Bernardo went on to star for Monaco last season, while Lindelöf is looking to impress new Benfica coach Rui Vitória. "It will be hard as I have to prove myself," he said. "I signed a new five-year deal recently but I'll have to work hard and show the new coach that I am good and able to play."
Lindelöf confirmed that his favourite position is in central defence but he is expected to start at right-back in a 4-4-2 system on Wednesday. "A tournament like this is a big stage and it’s a good thing to represent your country in a EURO," he said, adding of his long-term goals: "I want to be one of the best players in the world and play at the highest level." Short term, helping Sweden through is all that matters.