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Portugal hero Conceicao 'earned it': coach Martinez

19 June 2024, MVT 13:20
Portugal's forward #07 Cristiano Ronaldo and second goal-scorer, Portugal's forward #26 Francisco Conceicao celebrate on the pitch after the UEFA Euro 2024 Group F football match between Portugal and the Czech Republic at the Leipzig Stadium in Leipzig on June 18, 2024. -- Photo: Adrian Dennis / AFP
19 June 2024, MVT 13:20

Portugal coach Roberto Martinez said youngster Francisco Conceicao deserved his moment in the limelight after rescuing a 2-1 win against the Czech Republic for his team in their Euro 2024 opener on Tuesday.

The 2016 champions had to come from behind in Leipzig and Conceicao struck in the 92nd minute, moments after appearing from the bench.

Lukas Provod whipped in the opener against the run of play for the Czechs but a Robin Hranac own goal pulled Portugal level before Conceicao pounced from close range.

"Francisco is the ultimate example of earning it. He deserves to be here and showed he is ready to help the group," Martinez told reporters.

"Francisco is doing what he's been doing for the past four months in his club team. This is not easy. He showed character and showed his worth because he was allowed to be here."

The 21-year-old Porto winger is the son of former Portugal international Sergio Conceicao.

"Francisco is a very mature player. He plays very direct. He's got a nose for danger in the box," continued Martinez.

"For a national team coach and having a player that showed what he showed, it's very important."

Despite their struggle to break down the Czech Republic, Martinez said he thought this was an ideal display from his team to allow them to grow into the tournament.

"We all want to grow together during this tournament, we played the perfect 90 minutes to be able to grow -- next we face off against Turkey," he said.

The former Belgium coach was impressed with his players' resilience.

"We conceded - a goal down - and managed to win the game," continued the Spaniard.

"We lost against Slovenia after conceding the first goal, Croatia the same thing happened (both friendlies). Today we conceded and won."

Portugal defender Pepe became the oldest player in the history of the Euros at 41, while talisman Cristiano Ronaldo played in a record-extending sixth European Championship.

"We all know that it is important to have experienced players, like Cristiano Ronaldo," said Manchester United midfielder Bruno Fernandes.

"In fact, Pepe is probably the most experienced in the entire tournament. We know they are vital to us."

© Agence France-Presse

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