Wednesday 21 August 2019

Portugal hold no fear for Ireland U-19 star Everitt as he eyes huge semi-final upset

Matt Everitt. Photo: Sportsfile
Matt Everitt. Photo: Sportsfile

John Fallon

Matt Everitt is confident that the Republic of Ireland can pull off a giant-killing in today's Euro U-19 semi-final in Yerevan, Armenia.

Holders Portugal are firm favourites to dispatch Tom Mohan's youthful side and secure back-to-back appearances in the decider.

Portugal have 18 goals scored and one against in their six competitive games this season.

In addition, they are backboned by a flock of players from the Porto squad that beat Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea on their way to the Champions League youth title.

For all of that obvious talent, this is an Ireland squad attuned to tackling uphill battles.

Mohan has managed to guide them into the last four of Europe's foremost competition at this age-group without a host of regulars.

They followed a battling 1-1 draw against Norway in their opener by extending France in a 1-0 defeat. A draw in last Sunday's concluding match against the Czech Republic would have secured their passage into the semis, but they eased through courtesy of a 2-1 victory.

The latest misfortune befell them in the dying minutes when yellow cards were issued to a pair of key players.

Bookings for Lee O'Connor and Jonathan Afolabi were their second each of the tournament, ruling them out of tonight's showdown.

Everitt, one of two 16-year-olds to finish the game against the Czechs, insists Ireland are in a no-lose situation and will draw on past experiences.

"There's no expectation on us heading into the semi-final," he said. "France are a top side and only beat us in the group with a late goal.

"We won't be in awe of Portugal either. I watched their first game against Italy, a match they won comfortably, but all the pressure is on them," he added.

"We'll focus on our defensive duty and try to get on the ball. There's a tie to be won and we'll go into the game aiming for a spot in the final.

"We're a nation of fighters and have caused upsets in big tournaments before. We'll be ready for the challenge."

Due to his late call-up, the Brighton and Hove Albion winger's family couldn't join him in Armenia. Nevertheless, the enthusiasm hasn't dimmed among his support base.

"We're a long way from home," said the Surrey native.

"My grandmother was born in Cork and now lives in Plymouth while my half-brother has family in Westport, Co Mayo.

"I've been sent some lovely videos of them watching our games. Seeing them sing the national anthem in front of the television in their Ireland shirts has been brilliant."

Ireland U-19s v Portugal U-19s

Live, RTÉ2, 3.0

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