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Portugal bows out amid controversy

in Sport · 22-06-2002 00:00:00 · 0 Comments

Portugal has been humiliated both on and off the pitch. First Portugal's golden generation left a brilliant future behind them by losing 1-0 to co-hosts South Korea, then João Pinto was provisionally banned for punching the referee, Luís Figo accused of attempted match-fixing and now, long-standing internal squabbles have started to emerge.

Initially anger was directed at Argentine referee Angel Sánchez, for sending off João Pinto and Beto during Portugal's decisive match against South Korea. João Pinto's dismissal, even when compared with past precedents, was fully justified - a vicious two-footed tackle from behind. But what followed, initially not captured by television cameras, cannot be condoned. Several photographs, first published by the Japan Times, have shown João Pinto to be punching the referee in the stomach shortly after he received his marching order. Veteran defender Fernando Couto then proceeded to cup the referee's face with his hands, which, once again, could be an action that will warrant FIFA intervention.
As far as João Pinto is concerned, FIFA decided to "provisionally ban" the 29-year old until such time as a final hearing has been held. It is highly unlikely that the Sporting playmaker will go unpunished, and even less so that an eventual ban from football will be under 12 months.
Shortly after the game, as players were still recovering, a Korean news agency ran with an "exclusive" story claiming it had evidence that Luís Figo tried to have the match fixed during the half-time interval. The "source", was later identified as being defender Young-Pyo Lee, but he immediately refuted any such claims, saying whether he nor or any of his team-mates were approached by any member of the Portuguese squad to ensure the game ended in a draw, which would have secured the safe passage of both teams to the next phase.
In the meantime, it emerged that shortly before the Portugal v South Korea match, players called for a meeting to discuss whether or not they would be taxed on bonuses for making it through to next phase. In the end, the meeting had no bearing, as Portugal lost, but in what has been seen as a move by the government to express its disgust at the team's performance in South Korea, players will be taxed both here in Portugal and in South Korea for cash earned for performing so dismally in their three games at the World Cup.
Portugal's exit from the tournament, still came as a surprise, despite having shown numerous frailties against the USA and a mediocre Polish team. Losing 1-0 with only nine men on the pitch, is by no means disgraceful, especially when the second sending-off (that of Beto) was unjustified, as the Korean player he supposedly fouled, started his dive a metre before arriving near the defender. Nonetheless, Portugal could hardly complain that their premature departure from the tournament was anyone else's fault but their own, with manager António Oliveira and his backroom staff largely to blame.
While António Oliveira has a contract valid with the Portuguese Football Federation until after the 2004 European Nations' Cup, his reluctance to vacate his managerial position should not pose a problem for much longer, as his resignation (forced or otherwise) should not be far off.
In the meantime, the generation of Luís Figo, Rui Costa and João Pinto have bowed out in shame, and the scenes last Friday, unfortunately, seem to have erased the memory of the Portuguese team which enthralled the world at Euro 2000.
Back on the football pitch, surprises threaten to wreak even further havoc at the World Cup. Few would have bet that the quarter-final draw (starting Friday) would have looked as follows: Brazil v England, Senegal v Turkey, Spain v South Korea and Germany v USA. Most expect that the winners of the Brazil-England match will go on to win the tournament, but South Korea have beaten both Italy and Portugal, Senegal overcame France and Sweden, while Turkey were highly unfortunate to lose, under controversial circumstances, to favourites Brazil in the group stages.

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Edition 1500
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