Saturday 25 May 2019, 16:37

Portugal's biggest expectations come from themselves

  • Portugal resolute in triumphant Poland 2019 debut

  • These Portuguese players boast two continental titles

  • Showdown with Argentina looms next

A coveted generation of Portuguese footballers have officially made their grand entrance at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Poland 2019.

Now under the direction of Helio Dias, they have twice been crowned champions of Europe – first at the U-17 level in 2016, then again two years later – and came swaggering into Poland as contenders for their country's third world title.

“This is a group of players that take great pride and honour in wearing the Portugal shirt," said Dias. "This is a unique moment in their careers that they will not get back, so we have to get the most out of it.”

How would all the plaudits and pressure affect them on the field? Pitted against a Korea Republic side who were knocked out of the competition on their home turf by the Portuguese two years ago, the potential for a taut performance existed.

But it took Portugal only seven minutes to announce themselves to Korea Republic and the rest of the competition, with the agile Trincao tearing through defenders on a counter-attack that immediately opened up the game. The joint-top goalscorer at the 2018 UEFA European Under-19 Championship didn't wait long to open his account on the global stage.

While their opponents rebounded admirably, a staunch defensive effort ensured that the Portuguese ended the match 1-0 winners, collecting three points and shooting to the top of Group F.

Trincao of Portugal scores his team's first goal 

“I was happy to score, but we’re very happy because we won the game," Trincao told after the match. "Obviously that’s the most important thing, to get the win.”

Trincao's assessment was one echoed by his coach and many of his team-mates. In Poland, they are in sync from the moment they step off the team bus to the moment they step back on it.

"We've all been playing together from a young age, and it’s been a long time," said Trincao. "We started so early. That’s what makes us so strong and so united.”

Portugal's golden generation of youth players won back-to-back world championships in 1989 and 1991, led by coach Carlos Queiroz. That was the last time the country lifted a trophy at this level.

Argentina, their next opponents, are the record six-time winners of the tournament. It's a pedigree not lost on Trincao.

“We know the task that is before us," he said. "We think highly of Argentina. We know they’re the record holders. We’ll study them well and do our best to win.”

Opening the tournament with back-to-back victories would go a long way in ensuring Portugal's place in the knockout stages, but defeating La Albiceleste won't be easy. While the pressure isn't going away, Dias trusts his team's ability to handle it.

“We have many people paying attention to us, focusing on us," he said. “The biggest expectations come from ourselves. We always have to be better. We accept the expectations.”