There was certainly a tinge of frustration as Diogo Dalot reflected on Portugal’s opener at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea Republic 2017. More shots, more corners, more possession and still they were edged out 2-1 by Zambia.
But, the 18-year-old right-back conceded, this is all still very new to him. “It was a very hard game, but it was only the second time I’ve ever played against a team outside of Europe,” the Porto starlet admitted to FIFA.com. “Last week we played USA [in a warm-up game] and now against Zambia. African teams have their own style but we really could have come out on top as we missed a lot of chances.”
Despite being faced with some electric pace, Dalot did not let his natural attacking instincts get diluted, with his own athleticism providing an additional branch to the Selecção’s dynamic attack. “I like to stand up and help my team up front; to run and cover that side of the game,” he said on the eve of their meeting with Costa Rica.
“I’ve tried to develop my own style, it’s the way of the modern full-back – to defend well and try to provide support, enjoying some liberty up front.”
There was a freeing air to Dalot’s game as he shook off his defensive shackles, looking to expose holes in the opposing defence and arriving late at the far corner of the box.
The latter tactic brought about the highlight of his career to date, opening the scoring against Spain in last year’s UEFA European Under-17 Championship final – having already netted in the semi-final, too. “They were the first goals I have ever scored for Portugal!” he laughed. “It was an amazing feeling, scoring in the final when it was 0-0.
“I even almost cleared Spain’s goal off the line too,” he added with a mild grunt of frustration – the only goal they let in all tournament. “It was a great EURO for me and a fantastic experience. We conceded just one goal and scored 14! It was the best moment of our lives for sure.”
There is now a whole strand of their squad arriving with winning experience, while Dalot himself even helped Portugal reach Korea Republic the same summer. “Age is not the most important factor, quality is what has brought us here,” he said of his six team-mates, who he has played alongside since the U-15s. “We have shown we have that.
“We have the capacity to win, but the first goal is of course to get past the group stage.”
Already gathering interest from some of the world’s biggest clubs, Dalot simply sees links away from Porto – having joined aged eight, much to the delight of his Dragões-supporting dad – as “motivation” to continue with his current path of development.
Instead, exams and getting into university remain more in his field of view. “[A football career] ends too soon,” he concluded. “We have one until we’re 34, 35, and then we have a life to live after. I need some basis for that.”