Martinez lauds Portugal hero Conceicao after Euro 2024 drama in Leipzig

By Sports Desk June 18, 2024

Roberto Martinez lauded Francisco Conceicao as Portugal's much-needed hero after the Porto forward snatched a 2-1 victory over Czechia in their Euro 2024 opener.

Portugal seemed set for a disappointing draw in their first match at the tournament after Robin Hranac's own-goal cancelled out Lukas Provod's second-half rocket on Tuesday.

Yet Conceicao scored just two minutes after being introduced from the bench, sparking wild celebrations as Martinez's men escaped their first Group E test by the skin of the teeth.

Having only introduced Conceicao in the 90th minute, Martinez hailed the impact of the 21-year-old on his first competitive appearance for his country.

The Portugal boss told reporters: "He deserves it. He always works with one eye in front of the goal, he sniffs out goals.

"He was the fireworks we needed today."

Portugal completed 368 passes in the first half of this match, their most in a single half of football at the European Championship finals on record (since 1980), without finding any reward.

That dominance turned into frustration when Provod cannoned in the opener after 62 minutes, only for Portugal to be bailed out by new hero Conceicao in Leipzig.

Yet Martinez was not overly disappointed with his team's efforts.

"There are some points to evaluate, not from a tactical or physical point of view – we had 18 shots and 13 corners," the former Belgium head coach added. 

"We won because we showed values ​​of resilience, will and belief, from a dressing room that wants to give everything for Portugal. For a coach, it's the best."

Conceicao's winning strike came just 111 seconds after being introduced and marks the fastest such goal at the tournament since Ferran Torres, for Spain against Slovakia in June 2021 (41 seconds).

The Porto youngster admitted nerves played a part before his heroics took over.

"Of course there are, I suffer a lot inside and I try not to show it," Conceicao said.

"I have to be calm, that's what I tried to do and I knew the time could come to enter."

Vitinha also impressed in a controlled midfield showing for Portugal, though acknowledged his side must improve.

"Fortunately, we equalised and we believed until the end we could turn the match around," the Paris Saint-Germain player said.

"We need to do better but this was the first game. Everybody was enthusiastic but sometimes we were a bit hasty."

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