Portugal’s players aiming their place in the elitePhoto: Carlos FERREIRA
60th STAG European Youth Championships
Tomorrow, 520 players in 45 teams from 44 Associations will start their journey hoping for glory and the medals at the 60th STAG European Youth Championships. It will be the test for the new generations.
In Portugal’s Guimaraes host team will be under severe pressure. After great success of the senior team and the title at the European Championships in Lisbon in 2014, host nation’s boys and girls will be under spotlight.
Raquel MARTINS is the best-ranked player in the Junior Girls Team at the position no. 105 at the European rankings. However, she is the first year junior, so she will need a little help from Daniela MOURA and Alexandra PISCO, the players who had the experience of one year playing in the junior field. For PISCO it will be the third Championships, but for MOURA it will be the premiere.
“We are currently in the Second Division of the teams and we hope we will be among top two teams in the Group at the end of the group stage,” said Luis SOUSA coach of the Girls team.
Portugal is seeded at the position no. two in their group, behind Ukraine and above Lithania, Montenegro and Cyprus.
“We expect the most from Raquel MARTINS, but MOURA and PISCO brings the maturity to the team. Vitoria SANTOS is also great potential, but I think she needs a little bit more experience. Next year she will be much stronger. “
All four teams had preparation in High Performance Centre in Vila nova De Gaia with the teams of England, Ireland and Italy.
“They added some extra value to our work,” added SOUSA. “For girls, playing in front of their families and friends in Portugal will be something special. It could create the pressure, but I hope to get the best from it.”
Junior Boys are also in the second division. They will play against Finland and Luxembourg for the top position in the Group.
“We faced great difficulties even before the start of the competition. Samuel DA SILVA is injured. He had a problem with his hand and he probably will not be fully recovered to play in the Team’s event. I hope we will have him back in game for singles,” said Pedro OLIVIERA, coach of the Boys team.
The success of the men’s team in Lisbon was a special moment for Portugal’s table tennis.
“The boys are motivated. They all look after the great generation of FREITAS, APOLONIA, MONTEIRO. Of course, they will be under severe pressure here, but we will try to make it work in our favor in close encounters.”
The only team that will play in the first division is the cadet boy’s team. Tiago LI is the leading player, who recently won the silver medal at the Italian open.
“The most dangerous adversaries in our group is France. They are very strong, but we hope we will reach our goal and stay in the top division,” said Helder MELIM, cadet boy’s coach.
Preparation with England and Ireland helped team get the stability and team spirit, but coach underlined that the season was very long.
“Boys are little bit tired, this was very demanding season on national and international level. However, they are very proud to have possibility to play at home soil and they will give their best.”
Cadet girls are in second division. Ines BATISTA will lead the very young generation. For Patricia SANTOS and Ines MATOS it is the first year in cadets, whilst Silvia SANTOS is in her second year.
“We are talking about the youngest members of the team. We are trying to help them to overcame the pressure of playing at home and to turn it into our advantage,” said Cadet girls coach Marco RODRIGUES.