MARCOUSSIS, France (Reuters) - Portugal’s players are treating Sunday’s Euro 2016 final as the game of their lives and a chance to go down in their country’s history, midfielder Joao Mario said on Friday.
The 23-year-old also shrugged off criticism that Portugal, who have won only one match inside 90 minutes at the tournament, had yet to sparkle.
Portugal, hoping to win an international title for the first time, take on hosts France in Sunday’s final, 12 years after losing at home to Greece in their only other major final.
“I‘m certain that the whole group will think of it as the game of their lives because Portugal have never won a title,” Joao Mario told reporters.
“We can go down in Portuguese history. There is nothing like playing in a competition like this for our country.”
Joao Mario said it was also a chance to make up for last year when he was in the Portugal team which lost the European under-21 championship final against Sweden.
“I hope this year things are different. I am certain that 100 percent of the Portuguese believe that Portugal will win and that is what we want to believe, that is what we want to dream,” he said.
Even though it was the end of a long season, there was no question of fatigue creeping in, he added.
“Taking part in a final at this moment in my career, I don’t think about the physical issue. This is a unique opportunity and I want to make the most of it if I‘m picked,” he said.
Joao Mario shrugged off suggestions that Portugal had been dull to watch.
“Criticism is part of the game, we know that’s how things work in football,” he said “To be honest, we don’t think about this type of criticism. We don’t want to win to get our own back at people. We want to win to make the Portuguese people happy and go down in history.”
“We have to concentrate on positive things and think about the people who believe in us rather than the people who don‘t.”
“There have been lots of negative waves in this tournament and we have always got over them.”
Reporting by Brian Homewood. Editing by Adrian Warner.