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FIFA Confederations Cup

Portugal's bruised and beating heart

(FIFA.com)
Adrien Silva of Portugal and Alexis Sanchez of Chile
© Getty Images

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  • Portugal's central midfielders speak after semi-final defeat by Chile
  • William Carvalho and Adrien Silva talk about the position with FIFA.com
  • Portugal legend Maniche weighs in the discussion

By Marco Monteiro with Portugal 

On a night in which they hoped to secure a place in the final of their first ever appearance at a FIFA Confederations Cup, the Portuguese semi-final story ended in tears - the European champions undone from the penalty spot after 120 minutes of relentless work.

A mythical performance by Chile’s Claudio Bravo in the penalty shoot-out, in which he saved all three of Portugal’s penalties, was the headline story last night. Underlining that though, as is often the case, was the less-glamourous narrative - a story of the combative, gruelling work conducted by Portugal's midfield during a tense and relentless 120 minutes of open play.

FIFA.com spoke with central midfielders Adrien Silva and William Carvalho after the match.

“Our position, it's the heartbeat of the team,” said William Carvalho. "We can hold our heads up high. We put in a lot of work. In the end penalties decided our fate.”

“Everyone had an important part to play,” added Adrien. “And the central midfield formed part of this. Most importantly, everyone understood and delivered, or at least tried to deliver, on what they had to do individually.”

Silva is no stranger to winner-take-all matches, having been employed in all of Portugal’s knockout match at UEFA EURO 2016. “A player’s will and desire is the same in every match, whether in the group or the knockout games,” said Adrien. "It comes down to the desire to represent Portugal. That’s really it."

Watching over William and Adrien last night from high up in Kazan Arena was Portugal Legend Maniche. ”Honestly, sometimes it’s harder to sit here and watch the match than to be on the pitch,” the former central midfielder told FIFA.com during the game.

A veteran of both European Championship and FIFA World Cup™ semi-finals, Maniche is intimately aware of the central midfielders'  importance to a Portugal team that has always prided itself on lightning quick wingers.

"Above everything, playing as a central midfielder is about thinking about the collective, about the group,” explained the man responsible for scoring the match-winning goal in Portugal’s EURO 2004 semi-final against the Netherlands.

"The central midfielder is the position that liberates the team. There’s a lot of running involved, you battle a lot, you leave a lot of blood on the pitch. But above everything, you have to assist and have a physical capacity that goes beyond what is expected,” Maniche concluded.

Asked where he gets the endurance and combative spirit Maniche had described, Adrien Silva responded: “I always talk to my wife and boys before matches, to give some força to this being.” He stopped and taps his legs with a smile before continuing, “and to make sure that this energy doesn’t leave me on the grass.”

Asked whether it was difficult to choose between representing Portugal or France (his country of birth and residence until the age of 12) Adrien said: “It was never a discussion in our home. The decision actually happened quite naturally. My heart has always been Portuguese.”

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