Fight Fight Fight Fight Fight!
Portugal 1-0 Holland
Go on. Admit it. There’ll be plenty of talk over the next couple of days about the “disgrace” that this match has brought upon this World Cup, but… it was great, wasn’t it? There’s nothing quite like multiple red cards to get the heart racing, and tonight we saw four of them. Four! A new record. Forget The So-Called Battle Of Santiago (the infamous match in 1962 when Italy and Chile quite literally kicked and punched lumps out of each other), this was where it was at. All the better that all of the suspensions being accumulated were having a beneficial effect on England, too. It’s a good job for Portugal that FIFA has an amnesty on yellow cards at the end of the group stage. They’d have been struggling to raise a team for next Saturday otherwise. We also have the advantage that Portugal will now be being watched like hawks. No more diving around and clutching your face like you’ve just gone three rounds with Mike Tyson for you, Mr Figo. And there’s still a chance, considering the near headbutt on a Dutch player in the second half, that he might not be lining up against England next Saturday at all. There’s also a reasonable chance that Cristiano Ronaldo will be out too. He did something to his leg in the first half that caused his substitution, and he went off with the look on his face of someone that kind of knew that he wouldn’t be taking any further part in this World Cup. You’d have some sympathy for Sir Alex Ferguson, if he wasn’t such a strawberry-nosed buffoon.
There was, almost apologetically, a football match going on here somewhere amongst the yellow and red snow-storm. Maniche scored the only goal – the only player that looked likely to threaten England next weekend. Cocu hit the underside of the bar at the start of the second half… and, apart from a couple of long range shots that were comfortably parried by Ricardo and one good reaction save from Van Der Saar, that was about it. Strip away the drama of the sendings off and the complete collapse of discipline that both teams suffered, and this was not a great deal better than England-Ecuador this afternoon.
So, Holland are off home, and a lot earlier than most people expected. Where did it go wrong? Well… a tough draw didn’t help, and neither did a lack of experience in major tournaments. Once again, they also managed to have a massive falling-out. Van Basten and Old Horse Face aren’t on talking terms, which can’t have helped much. Maybe Marco isn’t the genius young coach that we had all been led to believe that he was after all. Ultimately, it was in front of goal that they suffered the most. They were in a tough group, but they only managed to score three goals in four matches. That’s just not good enough, regardless of who your opponents are. Even poor old England have scored twice as many as that.
I’ll give you my considered opinion on Portugal later in the week.