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Malho driving Portugal's lofty ambitions

Portugal's standout performer during qualification, 16-year-old forward Vanessa Malho has further enhanced her reputation in Antalya with a string of impressive displays.

Vanessa Malho is savouring every moment of her time in Turkey
Vanessa Malho is savouring every moment of her time in Turkey ©Sportsfile

The scorer of Portugal's opener in the 2-1 win against Belgium that secured Equipa das Quinas' historic first appearance at the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship, Vanessa Malho has continued her impressive form to leave her country on the brink of the semi-finals.

Quick, skilful and cool under pressure, the forward also showed a willingness to track back and defend during Portugal's matches against Group A rivals Turkey and Romania. Furthermore, it was the Vilaverdense FC player's clever dummy that released Jéssica Silva to create Micas's winner just before half-time in the latter encounter.

"We moved the ball about really well against Romania and I played better too, because I was able to have a bigger impact on the game," she told UEFA.com on the eve of Portugal's final group match against Denmark, from which they need a point to qualify. "But there are always areas where you can improve, and in our next game we need to show a bit more belief and be prepared to take a few more risks."

Born in Lyon to Portuguese parents, Malho moved back to Portugal with her family at the age of four and within a year was already taking her first steps in the game. "I'll always have a soft spot for France because I was born there, but I'm Portuguese and I feel 100% Portuguese," said the No8, before giving her verdict on the Lusitanians' chances of winning the competition.

"We're not among the favourites, so we're not setting any targets," she said. "We just want to put in a good performance against Denmark and, if we qualify, you never know what can happen."

Malho, with seven U19 caps to her name, is cherishing being on the big stage. "I try to listen to the advice of the older girls and learn from them, to hopefully become as good a player as they are," said the 16-year-old.

"It's a real privilege to be here, representing Portugal at such a high level and against such strong teams. I know that by the end of this European Championship I'll be more mature, more experienced and will have grown as a player and a person."

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