Portuguese handball is three games and 180 minutes away from a first qualification - which would be historic - for the Olympic Games.
Sixth in Euro 2020 where they brought down France, tenth in the Egyptian World Cup in January, the Portuguese have a real chance to go to Tokyo.
It is a moment as rare as it is sad for them.
On February 26, the goalkeeper of the selection Alfredo Quintana died at the age of 32 from cardiac arrest during training.
The Lusitanian selection arrives at the Olympic qualifying tournament (TQO) in Montpellier with a message: “Por Portugal Por Ti” (
For Portugal for you
), as coach Paulo Pereira confirms.
In what state of mind is your team, three weeks after the disappearance of Alfredo Quintana?
You can imagine that it is difficult for us.
The disappearance of Alfredo is the worst defeat we have known in our life.
His death is not the only thing that has happened to our selection: we come to Montpellier with injuries and with only four training sessions behind us.
Do your players have their minds set on playing an Olympic qualifying tournament?
It is not easy for them.
The Porto players, with whom Alfredo played, did not train for two weeks to pay tribute to him and try to digest their grief which is immense.
Until the end of the tournament we will try to juggle a compromise, thinking about Alfredo and his disappearance that makes us unhappy, not forgetting that we have to play matches to try to go to the Games.
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Can its disappearance give you strength or, on the contrary, bring you down morally?
Hard to say.
What is certain is that if we do something good in this tournament, we will have to think that it is also thanks to Alfredo.
Who was he for Portugal?
It was very important and it continues to be.
He was important as a player, but also and above all as a person.
We miss him a lot, but now is also the time to help our young goalkeepers to continue Alfredo's good work.
How, sportingly, do you approach this Olympic qualifying tournament?
It's a very difficult tournament for us.
This is the first time that Portugal have played a competition like this, with three successive games without a gap in between.
Given the format of the tournament, you can't miss anything during this exceptionally brutal weekend.
Can Portugal afford to qualify for the Games?
With what we have just experienced, it is difficult to say if we will be able to play with the same quality as during the Euro last year or during the recent World Championship.
Because of the disappearance of Quintana?
We had a lot of difficulties preparing for this tournament, both mentally and physically.
But we still have options and we will do our best to honor our participation.
Until the end, we will have to think that we have a chance.
If everything is together, if the chance, which has not been there for weeks, returns with us, we will see.
We try to be optimistic.
You will find France on Sunday evening, you have become a difficult opponent for the Blues ...
For the moment, I admit that I am focusing only on our first match against Tunisia
this Friday, 6:30 p.m.
This is the most important match.
After that, we will think about what we will do in the next match because, with this competition format, you really have to think match by match.
"We have the capacity to qualify for the Games", assures Guillaume Gille
Who do you think will qualify for the Games?
It really is a tournament where everyone can beat everyone.
Normally, France must win this tournament because it organizes it and because it is a great handball nation.
But, often in sport, the "normal" does not happen.
After that, if it turns out that way, there are three other teams for a single place and we will fight to get it.