ANA MAGALHAES / AIPS** in OLOMOUC: The first challenge to Portugal coach Rui Jorge came more than 24 hours ahead of their UEFA U21 Euro semi-final here against Germany.
German defender Julian Korb had told the media that he and his colleagues added up to a better team than Portugal. Asked to react Rui Jorge said: “I totally respect his opinion and it’s our job to prove the opposite in the field. They have all the reasons to label themselves as a strong team but we’ll do everything we can to be even stronger.”
Germany completed Group A one day before Portugal wrapped up Grup B. Rui Jorge underlined that he will not use a day’s less rest “as an excuse” but suggested that the tournament calendar was too tight.
He said: “The short interval between the matches is something that UEFA should reconsider. At this time of the season, is something that has an undeniable influence on players’ performance.
“Group A and Group B should have had the last round of that stage on the same day.”
Portugal have already achieved their priority here in qualifying for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro next year but are now reinvigorated at seeing the final just one step away.
Rui Jorge said: “We don’t feel either less or more pressure. I always want my players to face every game, even the non-competitive ones, with the same attitude. Nevertheless, it’s normal to have more enthusiasm in a semi-final.”
As for the tactical approach, Rui Jorge thought it “impossible to know how the game will be” but trusted in the potential of his players.
He said: “As always, we’ll try to control the game. One virtue that Portugal has is the ability to always respond well in different moments of a match. Even when we don’t have the ball, we stay organised.”
Portugal, with only one goal conceded in the group stage, boast the best defence of the tournament but the attack has not been as effective, wth only two goals.
Nothing to worry about, said the coach: “We created a lot of more opportunities than those two goals, it’s just a question of inspiration in the decisive moment.”
Midfielder João Mário agreed, saying: “We scored twice but it was enough to put us here. If I were given the chance of beating Germany with only one goal, I wouldn’t hesitate.”
He was not intimidated by the opposition or the occasion, either. Joao Mario said: “We have a lot of respect for Germany and, if they don’t fear us, we don’t fear them either.”
João Mário considered one other factor which his team mates should not fear.
He added: “We are very proud of what we have done but now we cannot be afraid of being happy. Germany are a more physical squad than us but we have our own strengths and we’ll do everything to win.”
** AIPS is the international sports journalists’ association with 10,000 members worldwide and is co-operating with UEFA in running a Young Reporters course at UEFA U21 EURO in the Czech Republic. More information: www.AIPSmedia.com
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