Portugal: All Class
Published by marco on
The team should be congratulated for demonstrating such character. –Luis Figo
The article Four off as Portugal send Dutch home (Eurosport) covers a match that looked more like ice hockey on grass than World Cup football. You have to have seen the match to realize just how ironic the quote above is, coming from Luis Figo, who was part of an extremely vicious Portugese side against the Dutch last night.
The two sides—both capable of very fine football—quickly became more concerned with producing and receiving yellow cards. Maniche of Portugal put in a nice goal to take the lead in the 25th minute and the Dutch spent the rest of the game missing the net completely and barely disturbing Ricardo, the Portugese netminder. A deliberate handball by Costinha (Portugal) got him sent off with a second yellow in extra time in the first half, setting up what should have been steady pressure from the Dutch and desperate defending from Portugal. The Dutch should have equalized on a bizarre non-call in which a Portugese defender came soaring in, leg high, and planted his foot into Dirk Kuijt’s chest, knocking him on his ass directly in front of the goalie. Though the referee was looking right at the play, he not only did not call a penalty, he waved the entire play on as if nothing had happened.
Then in stepped Luis Figo, sporting a maturity level of the under–17 league—one which most of his team (but especially Deco) shared.
“The spark was provided just before the hour mark by the habitually cool Luis Figo, who – unseen by Ivanov – headbutted Mark van Bommel following a foul by Giovanni van Bronckhorst on Barcelona team-mate Deco.”
Somehow, Figo only got a yellow card for an attack on a player after the whistle was blown. That was the referee Ivanov’s seond error: it doesn’t matter that Portugal was already down a man and that Figo was the best player in the world for several years—if he head-butts another player outside of play, he’s off. At that point, it would have been a deserved 11–9 players on the field, as the Portugese had been playing much dirtier and more dangerously than the Dutch.
Since Figo stayed on, he got to help send off a Dutch player to even things up with his “reaction to what appeared an innocent stray Khalid Boulahrouz arm”. He did get elbowed in the face, but it was hard to say it was deliberate (unlike DeRossi of Italy against the USA), but Ivanov responded to Figo’s histrionics and sent off the Dutch player, likely thinking he’d settle things down by evening up the players.
This was not to be, as the yellow cards kept coming fast and furious and at least twice a brawl almost broke out, due to the annoying habit that the Portugese players had of surrounding fallen Dutch players and exhorting them to get up—presumably in a language they didn’t understand. This swarming behavior earned them no friends on the Dutch team as the Dutch waded in trying to clear their compatriot some breathing room and Ivanov waded in, swinging his yellow card right and left. A simpering, whining Deco set the record by collecting two bookings in six minutes, the second for taking the ball and refusing to give it back for a Dutch free kick. Quality stuff, this.
In the end, the Portugese clung to their one-goal lead in a match that was an embarassment for both sides: the Portugese showed the world what we can expect in a match against a notoriously cool-headed English side and the Dutch showed the world that they just can’t find the net.