Bernardo Silva Shining Brightly for Portugal at U21 Euros.



Bernardo Silva of Portugal (R) celebrates scoring with his teammates during the UEFA Under 21 European Championship 2015 semi final. [AFP]

Bernardo Silva of Portugal (R) celebrates scoring with his teammates during the UEFA Under 21 European Championship 2015 semi final. [AFP]

On paper at least, the European U21 Championship semi-final featuring Portugal and Germany was certainly worthy of the final. While both teams haven't absolutely been at the peak of their powers throughout the entirety of the tournament, they've both had their moments of brilliance and both possess a plethora of excellent players.

So, with the two outfits heading into the clash undefeated, a pulsating, enthralling, close contest was to be expected.

Unfortunately, it didn't eventuate. Portugal wiped the floor with the highly talented German side, winning by a staggering scoreline of 5-0.


Ivan Cavaleiro (R) of Portugal celebrate with team mate Bernardo Silva after scoring the 3rd goal during the UEFA European Under-21 semi final match Between Portugal and Germany at Ander Stadium on June 27, 2015 in Olomouc, Czech Republic. [Getty Images/Martin Rose]

Ivan Cavaleiro (R) of Portugal celebrate with team mate Bernardo Silva. [Getty Images/Martin Rose]

Their chief attacking instigator, Bernardo Silva, was at it again, delivering yet another tremendous shift, as the technically gifted maestro ensured his side were into the final by half time, with the score at 3-0.

By virtue of having the game sewn up by the break, Portugal's manager, Rui Jorge, had the luxury of being able to take his starlet off in just the 49th minute. Preserving his key man for the final, then, was clearly at the forefront of his thinking.


Bernardo Silva (L) and Rui Jorge, head coach of Portugal attend a UEFA press conference ahead of the UEFA European Under-21 final match against Sweden at Eden Stadium on June 29, 2015 in Prague, Czech Republic. [Getty]

It must be said, though, that it was 49 minutes of pure class, quality and polish.

The number 10's movement was truly first rate, as while he was his side's playmaker, he dropped deep, drifted left, drifted right and even pushed high, which all combined to make life extremely difficult for his opponent, Johannes Geis, to contain him.

In fairness, Geis applied himself admirably, but Silva, who needs hardly any space to wreak havoc, was just too elusive. He was always one step ahead of the Schalke man, both with and without possession. His intelligent movement meant he constantly avoided his man and when he obtained possession, his superlative, unpredictable dribbling ability saw him cause further headaches.

The close control of the Monaco man in tight spaces was a joy to behold. This, in combination with his low centre of gravity and razor sharp change of direction, allowed him to manoeuvre himself out of many a sticky situation.


Johannes Geis [Getty]

Another way in which he influenced the contest was via his slick passing ability. Whether it was combining with his fellow attackers in close proximity, setting through the likes of Ivan Cavaleiro and Ricardo Pereira courtesy of a slicing through ball or from a set piece, the 20-year-old's impact was immense in this regard.

In addition, the fact he had a hand in all four of his team's goals that were scored while he was on the field indicated just how crucial his work is to the side. One direct assist came from a corner and two more from initial incisive forward forays by the pocket rocket. Portugal's opener, scored by him, was the pick of the bunch though.


William Carvalho (L) of Portugal and Emre Can of Germany battle for the ball during the UEFA European Under-21 semi final match Between Portugal and Germany at Ander Stadium on June 27, 2015 in Olomouc, Czech Republic. [Getty Images/Martin Rose].

Here, after William Carvalho found him, Silva expertly dinked the ball to Cavaleiro, who was behind him. Silva then sprinted forward and got into an ideal position to receive the ball back from Cavaleiro. The winger then obliged Silva's run. By now, Silva was into the box, and all he had between himself and the goal was Germany's Champions League winning keeper, Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

He made no mistake, rifling the ball past the hapless Ter Stegen to cap off an absolutely fabulous move that was kick-started and finished by him.

Following what was a magical contribution by the former Benfica man, his manager, at 4-0, didn't feel the need to leave his chief creator out there any longer. Rafa replaced him, as the fans chanted Silva's name in adulation as he left the field. His work was done.

The historic triumph sends the side to Prague for the final against Sweden. Moreover, the win is also significant, for it represents the first time since 1994 that a Portuguese U21 side has reached the final of the showpiece.


That terrific 1994 team featured the likes of Rui Costa and Luis Figo, with the latter, interestingly, being the last Portuguese player to win the coveted player of the tournament award.

Silva would join elite company if he were to win the award, which, as things stand, would appear likely, as his performances have been outstanding throughout, which has propelled him to already receive two official UEFA man of the match awards.

Glory beckons for this wildly talented Selecao squad, and you get the feeling if they're to take out Sweden in the final, Silva's creativity and invention will have a key role to play. If he can tear apart Germany, then Sweden will have to be right on top of their game, in terms of organisation and structure, if they're to have any chance of limiting his impact.


Bernardo Silva celebrates after scoring the first goal for Portugal. [Getty Images].

Although this is possible to achieve, it's certainly easier said than done.

Bernardo Silva is just that good.

Edward Stratmann Licence To Roam [@LicenceToRoam]

Edward Stratmann writes regularly about the on-field aspects of the game, with a particular focus on tactics and analysis. In addition to featuring on Inside Spanish Football, Just Football, The Eagles Beak and Juve FC, you can also find Edward’s work at Licence to Roam, a football blog he started with his brother in 2013.


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