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Portugal winger Pereira keeping it in the family

Leandra Pereira emerged as a unique talent during Portugal's opening fixture against Austria and she is not the only member of her family making strides in women's football.

Leandra Pereira talks to UEFA.com ©UEFA.com

Tuesday's matchday one fixture between Group A rivals Portugal and Austria was barely five minutes old when Leandra Pereira sparked excitement among the Telford crowd with an eye-catching turn of pace followed by an audacious trick to beguile her marker.

Here was a player fuelled by self-confidence and the talent to match. Indeed, the 15-year-old rightly recognises the importance of technical proficiency at such an early stage in her career, but "it is not the most important part of my game," she acknowledges. "The overall concerns of the team come first, but my technical ability has always helped me."

Pereira's source of inspiration comes close to home – her elder sibling Regina, already a senior international defender at 21. "My sister tells me and all the players in the team to have faith in our abilities and to never fear the opposition regardless of their reputation. We just have to focus on our own game and hopefully things will work out," she said. 

Given the winger's infectious appetite for the game, it comes as little surprise to learn of her dedication from a tender age. "Since I was a child, I always saw myself as a footballer. Any free time I got, I used to play with my sister. Then I started playing for a team when I was ten and it went from there." Even less surprising, perhaps, is Pereira's admiration for a player who needs no introduction. "My idol, who plays in the same position, is Cristiano Ronaldo – I've always wanted to play like him," she said.

When Pereira is not flying down the wing at this UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship, she is enjoying the state-of-the-art training facilities at St George's Park – the English Football Association's (FA) national football centre where all eight competing sides are based. "It's remarkable with it being the home of the FA. Of course the players have been enjoying it, they're delighted to work in such an amazing place," the No11 enthused. 

On the pitch, Portugal were held to a goalless draw by Austria in their Group A opener. "It was an extremely tough game for us, but we did well and controlled the game for long periods," said Pereira, who implored her team to get tough. "The only aspect we were disappointed with was in the final third. We have to be more focused and confident in our ability in order to score goals."