COVID disappointment driving Portugal's Cancelo at Euros

COVID disappointment driving Portugal's Cancelo at Euros

HARSEWINKEL, Germany - Portugal defender Joao Cancelo is looking to make up for a lost opportunity, after missing out on the last European Championship, when his country start their 2024 campaign next week, he said on Sunday.

Cancelo was dropped just before the Euro 2020 tournament after testing positive for COVID-19, something he said still rankles him.

“It was unfair, because I had a great season, I felt like I should have been there but life didn't want it that way,” he told a press conference.

“Maybe I had to wait for this moment to be the right one to assert myself, added the full back, who spent last season on loan at Barcelona from Manchester City.

"No matter how many clubs I play for, the national team is the highlight of my career because in it I represent my family, my friends who played with me on the street," he added.

"It's always the highlight, whether in a friendly or in top competition.”

Cancelo, who won the first of his 54 caps in 2016, is expected to feature on Tuesday when the Portuguese open their campaign against the Czech Republic in Group F in Leipzig.

“We want to have a good start, get off on the right foot and I feel like we have the team to do it. There is a lot of positivity, we are on the right path but the results will tell.”

Cancelo praised the input of coach Roberto Martinez, who took over after the last World Cup in Qatar.

“He is a coach who from the first day made me feel at ease, both on a sporting and personal level.

“He is very close to the players, has good ideas, likes attacking, offensive and attractive football and I identify with that because I think the same way,” added Cancelo.

“We hope to bring him joy. He has made a difference since he arrived and has adapted very quickly.”

However, at club level these are uncertain times for the 30-year-old. Spanish sports newspapers at the weekend suggested he could return to City if Barca cannot finalise a permanent move.

“From the first day here, I forgot all that,” Cancelo responded to a question about his next move after Euro 2024.

“I'm 100% focused on the national team, 100% focused on helping Portugal,” he added. REUTERS

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