Preview: Portugal Under-19s vs. Norway

Preview: Portugal Under-19s vs. Norway

Battling it out for a place in the final of the European Under-19 Championship 2023, Group A winners Portugal Under-19s meet Group B runners-up Norway Under-19s in Thursday’s semi-finals.

The teams clash at Tony Bezzina Stadium, with Portugal seeking a sixth final at this level and semi-final debutants Norway aiming to break more new ground.

Confirming their status as one of the tournament favourites, Portugal stormed through the group stage of the Euro Under-19 finals in Malta by winning all three games; scoring nine goals and conceding just twice in the process.

Having also swept aside all their opponents in the elite round of qualifying – Sweden, Czechia and Croatia – they confirmed a place at the championships for an 11th time, and the relentless progress of Joaquim Milheiro’s side has now seen them book a ninth semi-final appearance at this level.

Gabriel Bras, Joao Goncalves and qualifying top scorer Hugo Felix have all found the net twice this summer, as the latter’s solo strike against Poland secured three points on the opening day to set up an impressive cruise through Group A.

Portugal then crushed 10-man Italy 5-1 to clinch a last-four spot: after a close-fought first half, they went up a gear after the interval against an ailing Azzurrini in Ta’Qali.

Finally, they concluded their campaign with a third straight win, beating already-eliminated hosts Malta 2-1 on Monday, and now sights are set on adding another continental crown to the Iberian nation’s sole success at the Under-19 Euros.

From five previous final appearances, only one has seen Portugal go on and lift the trophy, so Milheiro and co are aiming to emulate a 2018 team featuring wing wizards Jota and Francisco Trincao by going all the way on this occasion.

However, standing between them and a place in Sunday’s final – where either Italy or Spain will await – is an opponent with nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Norway have made it to a men’s UEFA youth semi-final for the first time since 1992’s Under-18 Euros, and until this week the Nordic nation had never before progressed from a group stage at this age level.

This summer, though, Luis Pimenta’s boys have done so by earning five points from their Group B campaign, in which they finished second to section winners Spain.

After Norway edged out Greece in a nine-goal thriller on the opening day, with Niklas Odegard bagging a brace in a dramatic 5-4 win, their 1-1 draw with Iceland set up a last-day contest with Spain, who fielded a much-changed XI.

A battling 0-0 stalemate ensured the Norwegians got the point they required to progress, and Portugal-born Pimenta now seeks to take a team which won five games out of six during qualifying – including a 2-1 victory over France – into this weekend’s final.

Portugal Under-19s European Under-19s Championship form:

Norway Under-19s European Under-19s Championship form:

We say: Portugal Under-19s 1-0 Norway Under-19s
Aside from their nine-goal epic against Greece, so far Norway have kept things tight at the back, and they could truly test Portugal’s ability to carve open any side that stands in their way. Nonetheless, the Portuguese squad is more talented in most areas and has shown the mentality required to maximise their vast potential.

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