Portugal prepared for the 2024 UEFA European U17 Championship in Cyprus

Portugal are making their final preparations for the 2024 UEFA European U17 Championship which is being held in Cyprus from 20 May to 5 June.

Sixteen nations are competing on the Mediterranean island with João Santos' side attempting to lift the trophy for a third time.

The “Equipa das Quinas” have a proud history at the tournament, winning four titles when it was an U16 event and two titles at U17 level, in 2003 and 2016.

They reached the semi-finals in Israel in 2022 and failed to get out of the group stage in Hungary last year.

Portugal have been handed a tough draw in Group D alongside Spain, England and France. Their campaign begins against the Spaniards, the match taking place in Dasaki on 21 May.

Qualifying Round

Portugal 3-0 Albania

Portugal dominated Albania in Rio Maior and deservedly took the lead in the 34th minute, Eduardo Felicíssimo’s long range strike deflected past Alain Taho.

The second half saw more of the same, the second goal coming in the 68th minute when Tiago Ferreira’s corner was turned home by Rui Silva. The job was completed two minutes later, a rebound falling to Rafael Mota who made no mistake.

Portugal 6-1 Montenegro

Cardoso Varela had a strong start in Caldas da Rainha, the left winger scoring in the 6th minute when he brought the ball down, turned inside and fired a fierce volley past Danis Muković.

Portugal piled on the pressure and doubled their advantage 10 minutes later, Varela given time and space to deliver pinpoint cross to Gabriel Silva who headed past Muković. The goalkeeper picked the ball out of his net for a third time when a corner towards the back post was headed home by João Trovisco.

The goals kept flowing, the pick of the bunch coming in the 27th minute after a great team move. Varela started it with a surge into the box, Trovisco finding Silva who bamboozled Luka Šćekić and slotted past Muković.

There was time for more as Afonso Vieira’s long distance free kick sailed into the top corner. Varela then picked out Denilson Santos, the left-back executing a right footed shot into the far corner to make it 6-0 at half-time.

Afonso Meireles’ own goal came two minutes after the restart, second half substitute Tiago Ferreira lasting five minutes on the pitch before being shown a straight red for a high shot caught that Muković in the chest.

João Santos was happy with the first half performance: “In the first half a great level, with great intensity, with simple processes and with many opportunities. In the second half we were immediately conditioned by Tiago's expulsion, which I think was a little unfair, with excessive rigor, as Tiago slipped, but we continued working and switched off a little with the objective already achieved.”

Portugal 2-0 Czech Republic

Portugal began brightly in Leiria, wingers Cardoso Varela and Geovany Quenda looking dangerous before the deadlock was broken in the 31st minute. Varela broke clear from inside his own half and laid the ball into the path of Gabriel Silva, the striker stepping inside Matyáš Poturnay and curling the ball into the far corner.

The Czechs showed some promise in the second half but were lacking a clinical finish. Santos’ side weathered the storm and regained control with Varela at the forefront, the 15-year-old forcing a fine save from Marek Obdržálek before going on another surging run, this time showing great awareness to tee up Afonso Meireles who executed a fine finish.

Santos commented after the victory saw his side top Group 5 with 11 goals scored and one conceded. “I want to congratulate my players who showed unsurpassable dedication. I always saw a good spirit and a very strong sense of commitment in this qualification tournament.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the clubs from which these players came. The positive performance they have here is a reflection of the good work the clubs do. They demonstrated a lot of quality.”

Torneio Internacional Algarve

Portugal 6-0 Netherlands

Portugal continued their tradition of hosting the Torneio Internacional Algarve in February and couldn’t have asked for a better start, thrashing Netherlands 6-0 in Albufeira.

Santos' side established a 4-0 half-time lead, Afonso Vieira opening the scoring around followed by a hat-trick from Gabriel Silva. Afonso Patrão and Martim Cunha added late goals to complete the rout.

Portugal 1-1 Spain

Portugal took control after a physical first half, Gabriel Silva coming off the bench and opening the scoring in the 75th minute. They couldn’t hold on, Sydney Ehizogie equalising in the 89th minute.

Portugal 0-3 Germany

The Equipa das Quinas had an early look at Elite Round opponents Germany in their final match of the tournament. They were in unfamiliar territory at half-time, 2-0 down after conceding a 30th minute penalty.

Montrell Culbreath gave the German team a decisive lead in the 57th minute, Santos using the opportunity to empty his bench.

Elite Round

Portugal 4-0 Republic of Ireland

Once again Portugal enjoyed home advantage in the elite round, starting by hosting Republic of Ireland at Cidade Desportiva SC Braga.

The first goal came in the 15th minute after a heavy touch from goalkeeper Joseph Collins, Rodrigo Mora’s shot cleared off the line before João Simoes pounced on the rebound and found the net.

Mora saw another shot saved before a nice pass released Varela, his cross turned home by Gabriel Silva.

Ireland found a way back into the game after converting a 32nd minute penalty. It was a great pass from Niall McAndrews to Mason Melia which resulted in Rafael Mota's late challenge, Melia stepping up and sending Diogo Ferreira the wrong way.

Portugal didn’t let the setback affect them, scoring twice in the space of four minutes to seal the deal. The first came in the 51st minute when Gabriel Silva headed Quenda’s cross into top corner.

Another shot from Mora was cleared off the line but he wouldn’t waste his next opportunity. Not closed down on the edge of the 18-yard box, the midfielder squeezeda a low drive into the bottom corner.

Portugal 3-0 Croatia

João Santos brought in Bayern Munich midfielder David Daiber for Eduardo Felicíssimo in Vizela where Portugal took the lead in the 18th minute. It was another howler after Antonio Rajić passed the ball straight to João Simões, the captain giving it to Gabriel Silva who dinked it over helpless goalkeeper.

The lead was extended in the 32nd minute when Simões and Gabriel Silva combined to release Geovany Qunda, the winger getting past two defenders and smashing the ball into the bottom corner.

Rui Silva headed a corner off the bar before the break, Francisco Silva and Quenda going close after the restart before Rodrigo Mora made it 3-0 in the 62nd minute, his shot hitting the inside of the post and nestling in the net.

There was no response from Croatia, Santos praising the patience and maturity of his players: “It was a good game on our part, we corrected some mistakes, we were patient and showed maturity waiting for the right moments to score goals, which gave peace of mind to the process. It’s a very fair result and they deserve it.”

Portugal 3-2 Germany

Portugal wanted to avoid defeat against Germany in Famalicão to seal top spot, the game coming to life in the 42nd minute when they capitalised on another error. Karim Coulibaly lost the ball in a dangerous position, Rodrigo Mora breaking clear and releasing Geovany Quenda who made no mistake.

Germany equalised from a corner minutes after the break. Coulibaly’s header was saved by Diogo Ferreira, the ball falling into the path of Denis Husser who converted from close range. The goal turned the tide but the Germans couldn’t take advantage as Montrell Culbreath missed a great chance, Coulibaly headed over the bar and Francis Onyeka headed against the woodwork.

Portugal made them pay in the 78th minute when João Trovisco converted Duarte Soares’ cross, Quenda curling a superb free kick into the top corner four minutes later.

Husser scored a late consolation but it wasn’t enough as Portugal topped Group 5, Germany eliminated after Croatia scored three late goals to beat Ireland 5-0 and sneak ahead of the Germans on goal difference.

Manager

João Eduardo Barbosa Mendes Santos was born in 1957, his coaching career beginning with Linda-a-Velha in 1984 followed by a six-year spell at Benfica. He went on to manage Alverca, Seixal and Olivais e Moscavide alongside short spells in Madeira with Camacha and Marítimo B.

The 66-year-old managed Benfica B from 2004 to 2006, then spending a season at AD Oeiras before becoming the boss of Portugal’s U15 side. He returned to Benfica as academy manager from 2011 to 2018, then taking some time off before recommencing his employment with the Portuguese Football Federation in 2021.

Santos took over the Portugal U15 side and has remained with the generation through U16 to U17 level.

Squad

João Santos initially named 21 players in his squad with 20 travelling to Cyprus. Guimarães winger Afonso Vieira was left out, a forced decision due to physical reasons.

Midfielder João Simões and winger Geovany Quenda represented Portugal at the 2023 UEFA European U17 Championship in Hungary.

Goalkeepers: Diogo Ferreira (Benfica), Miguel Gouveia (Sporting CP)

Defenders: Duarte Soares (Benfica), Edgar Mota (Braga), Rui Silva (Benfica), Afonso Sousa (Braga), Rafael Mota (Sporting CP), Martim Cunha

Midfielders: Eduardo Felicíssimo (Sporting CP), David Daiber (Bayern Munich), Afonso Meireles (Vitória de Guimarães), Tiago Ferreira (Braga), João Simões (Sporting CP), Rodrigo Mora (Porto)

Forwards: Gabriel Silva (Sporting CP), Afonso Patrão (Braga), Geovany Quenda (Sporting CP), Eduardo Fernandes (Benfica), Cardoso Varela (Porto), João Trovisco (Braga)

Quotes

Martim Cunha: “We are confident in our team. We fought hard to be here and we achieved that goal. Now it's time to take advantage of what's coming. The ultimate goal is to win, be champions, honor our country and our families who are fighting for us.

“It's an incredible experience, a boy's dream come true. I'm very proud to be able to represent my country and my family in a competition of this caliber.”

Diogo Ferreira: “"The goalkeeper must be very confident and very communicative. He must know how to lead the team. Inside the posts he must have a lot of quality, but the most important thing is the mental part and at that level I feel prepared for this European Championship.”

Edgar Mota: “We know that we have very complicated games ahead of us. We are in a very complicated group, but we have quality. The opponents are not scary. We have faced them all and we know what we are worth. We will give everything in every game and we will try to win a game at a time.”

Afonso Meireles: “On the field, we are very strong in offensive transitions. We have very fast wingers who can unbalance in this and other moments of the game. Off the field, we are a very strong group, with a great spirit of mutual assistance.”

Afonso Patrão: “It's a huge pride to be in this group of players. Many players my age would like to be in this position and I'm privileged to be here. I hope I can make those who follow us proud and represent the country in the best way.”

Rodrigo Mora: “We have been training very well, with a lot of intensity. We will face three very strong teams, but we are Portugal and we will do our best with the aim, in the first phase, of passing the group stage.

“We all manage to keep our feet firmly on the ground. We know they speak very highly of us, but we have to prove it on the field.”

Geovany Quenda: “Having been to the last edition of the European Championship can help. I think we should try to play calmly, always try to have the ball and not fool ourselves: regardless of the opponent, the games will be very difficult.”

Duarte Soares: “We have quality in transitions, we know how to exploit the opposite side well, our wingers and forwards are good at one-on-ones. one, our full-backs have good capacity to help offensively, our midfielders can keep up... we believe we will be successful.”

João Simões: “We are focused and happy to finally be able to start playing. We expect a difficult game, but we like these competitive games and we will do everything we can to get the three points.

“It's really going to be a big challenge, but that also motivates us. We're going to have three very complicated games, against three great teams full of quality players. We are always very united and happy for the opportunity to compete in a European Championship. There is the usual little nervousness, but that is actually healthy.”

João Santos: “The team has been working and developing what we have been doing so far, both in the first qualifying round and in the Elite Round. I feel calm and confident, within the strengths and abilities of each one and his talent.

“The latest results give us peace of mind, they give us confidence, but they also give us a lot of responsibility and there has to be a big commitment from the players for us to perform well here. I don't know how far we'll get, but our goal is to always perform well and be equal to ourselves.

“There are three very high-quality teams, with a great history in grassroots football. Any of these teams have already been European U7 champions and have players who already play in leagues older than their age.

“We also have these cases, in the case of Rodrigo Mora and Geovany Quenda, who are already going to professional championships, so we try to put at the service of the team what our players are capable of doing. We also know, and they are aware of this, that we have to be at our best. Any detail makes a difference.

“We don't look at the past or the future. We look at the present. I don't like comparing generations, each one has its own specificities, its moments and its contexts. It's a good generation, they have talent and many of them have the ability to reach high-level football. What we hope is that each player does their best, based on their expectations and their current situation.

“The tournaments that we have been doing since U15 - and this is one of the aspects that the FPF has in mind - are with the aim of providing competitive and demanding experiences, which will prepare us for later when we reach competitions of this level, the players be more prepared.

“What we have been doing this season has prepared us for this moment and I feel from them this experience, maturity, commitment and awareness of the great difficulties we are going to face, because they are three top teams in Europe. What we did gives us that maturity, that confidence and that responsibility, for representing Portugal and the Portuguese Football Federation.”

Fixtures

May 21 Group D

16:00 BST - Portugal vs Spain (Dasaki Achnas Stadium, Achna)

May 24 Group D

18:30 BST - Portugal vs England (Ammochostos Epistrofi Stadium, Larnaca)

May 27 Group D

18:30 BST - Portugal vs France (Ammochostos Epistrofi Stadium, Larnaca)

May 29 & 30 Quarter-Finals

June 2 Semi-Finals

June 5 Final (Limassol Stadium, Limassol)

By Matthew Marshall in Cyprus