THE Benfica’s exciting ranking for the group stage of the UEFA Champions League left not only the fans euphoric but also the players of the Portuguese team, especially those who will dispute the competition for the first time, as is the case of the Brazilian Gilberto.
Gilberto, from Benfica, dominates the ball in the game against PSV, which earned him a spot in the Champions League — Photo: Geert van Erven/Getty Images
– It’s a boy’s dream to be able to compete in the competition, and seeing this goal materialize has been, without a doubt, one of the most special moments of my career. The Champions League games have an atmosphere unlike anything I’ve ever experienced – said the right-back, through his advisers.
After winning 2-1 in Lisbon, Benfica held the 0-0 with PSV in Holland, playing with one less since the expulsion of defender Lucas Veríssimo, 32 minutes into the first half. Incumbent, Gilberto played until halfway through the final stage, when he gave way to André Almeida. This Thursday, Benfica will meet their opponents in the draw for the Champions groups.
At the age of 28, Gilberto has already played in the Europa League twice, for Fiorentina, in the 2015/16 season, in his first spell in European football, and last year, for Benfica, when the Portuguese team stopped in the round of 16.
Hired in 2020, after standing out at Fluminense, Gilberto saw Benfica fall precisely in the playoffs of the Champions League last season, the first frustration of a complicated year for the team led by Jorge Jesus, who finished third in the Portuguese Championship, having that again pass through the Champions playoffs.
This time, the start is encouraging: Benfica are unbeaten in seven games this season, with six wins and a 0-0 draw with PSV, which earned them a spot in the Champions League. At the Portuguese, shares the leadership with Sporting. In the European knockout, they won both games against Spartak Moscow – in one of them, Gilberto scored his first goal for the Portuguese team – and then eliminated PSV with a heroic performance in Eindhoven.
– It was a result achieved with a lot of struggle, faith, determination and dedication. We knew it would be a very difficult game, and due to the circumstances of the match, our task ended up getting a little more complicated, but our group showed how strong and capable it is. Now it’s time to keep focused on the work. We are doing a great start to the season and we will fight even more to reach our next goals – commented Gilberto.