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Pinto seizing unexpected opportunity

Having belied her lack of experience to be one of Portugal's most accomplished performers in their Group A opener against hosts Turkey, Fátima Pinto is determined not to stop there.

Fátima Pinto after her interview with UEFA.com
Fátima Pinto after her interview with UEFA.com ©Sportsfile

Fátima Pinto could have been forgiven for being slightly overawed ahead of Portugal's opening game at the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship in Antalya. After all, it was her first appearance at any level for her country and, though a central midfielder by trade, she was asked to carry out an unfamiliar left-back role.

Yet the 16-year-old showed no signs of debut nerves as she put in a highly assured performance. "I think we played well overall against a tough opponent like Turkey, but we're not here to make life easy for anyone," Portugal's No10 told UEFA.com, on the eve of her team's second Group A encounter against Romania.

"My first impressions have been really positive and I'm delighted to be here, particularly as I wasn't expecting it at all," continued Pinto, who had never been involved with the Portuguese national set-up prior to being selected for a four-day Under-18 training camp in early June.

"A few days after that training camp I was called up for another one, this time with the Under-19s, and because [first-choice left-back] Cláudia [Teixeira] had left the squad to focus on her work, I ended up making the cut for these finals."

Indeed, it was Teixeira's withdrawal after the second qualifying round that forced coach José Paisana to search for a new left-sided defender. "I'm comfortable with both feet, which makes it easier. I love a challenge and when I'm set a task I really work hard at it," she said. "So, when I was asked to play at left-back I made it my goal to become as good as I could possibly be in this position."

And having managed to find her way to a finals tournament in double-quick time, she passed on a message to other young hopefuls keen to make the grade in women's football. "It's very important to never give up and to follow things through right to the end," she said. "You have to be prepared to fight for what you want, because you won't get anything without fighting for it."

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