Portugal win as yellows and reds are dispersed
Portugal made it into the last 16, and how. Ruud van Nistelrooy was dropped in favour of Dirk Kuyt, new exciting prospect at Feyenoord. Portugal drew first blood through Maniche Riberio, Christian Ronaldo feeding Deco down the right, Deco then passed across to Pedro Pauleta, who touched it just right into Maniche's path, the former Chelsea man side-stepping Andre Ooijer to fire past Edwin van Der Sar on 23mins. The Dutch pressed for an equaliser and Robin van Persie made a number of darting runs, twisting and turning and almost gained one with a punt across goal that just went wide. The Dutch made a number of attacks on the Portugal goal, Philip Cocu missed a great chance with the keeper at his mercy but volleying off the crossbar, Mark van Bommel's shot just diverted away by keeper Ricardo Pereira, Kuyt was played through but could only reach the ball to touch it as Ricardo came out to smother. Kuyt was just short of getting on the end of balls that one suspects VNR would have relished, and it was a surprise Marco van Basten did not bring him on.
What appears to have made the headlines in regard to this match was the bookings, sixteen yellows, eight of which led to four dismissals, it made for some unbelievable viewing. Personally I have no problems with the bookings as I felt referee Valentin Ivanov followed the rules, for they were for challenges that were not warranted. Deco's petulance in holding onto the ball as Cocu tried to prise it for a quick free-kick was right, for time wasting. The Barcelona man should have behaved better being on a yellow already. Even the second booking of Khalid Boulahrouz with the Dutchman's left forearm coming across Figo's face as Figo knocked the ball past him was right, albeit the contact was minimal.
The one gripe I have about this game is the diving happenig from both sides, perhaps more so from the Dutch, and that Figo should have gone with a straight red if Mr Ivanov had knowledge of his minimal headbutt on van Bommel. I cannot believe he did see it, his back faced the incident at the time, and the booking Figo received had to be for something else Mr Ivanov believed he had done, or for something said. FIFA have already stated they cannot investigate into the incident as it had, in their estimation, been dealt with by Mr Ivanov, but a spokesman did say the official match report from the referee had not yet been read. That report cannot detail the incident and must report Figo's booking for another matter, therefore FIFA can investigate and ban Figo. Italy's Daniele de Rossi will have a say on it, I imagine.
Francisco Costinha, the former Monaco, Porto and now Dinamo Moscow midfielder, was the first to go on 45mins with a late tackle on Cocu then a blatant handball which made me wonder what the blazes he was thinking of. Boulahrouz followed in the second half on 63mins, booked for a scraping of the studs on Ronaldo's thigh and the Figo moment. Deco was booked for a scything hack at Johnny Heitinga out of frustration that Portugal were not returned the ball after kicking it out for a Holland player, and then for time wasting on 78mins. Finally Giovanni van Bronckhurst went for a booking for a tackle on Simao Sabrosa, and later in late injury time for trailing his leg behind sub Tiago as Tiago turned the ball away from him. Wesley Sneijder should have gone in the 73rd minute, as following the melee that ensued Deco's hack on Heitinga, players from both sides gathered up and Sneijder jogged up and pushed over Armando Petit.
This was a repeat of the Euro2004 semi-final between these two, Maniche scored an excellent goal then and he made another good finish last night. Despite the absence of Costinha and Deco for the quarter-finals, and this should also include Figo but I sense FIFA will wish to bypass any more sensationalism connected to the match, the likes of Maniche and Nuno Valente make for a big threat. Pauleta had a great chance to score denied by van Der Sar's right boot but otherwise he was a spectator. If England are yet to produce their best, something which Sven-Goran Eriksson assures us will come, I hope it manifests well in Gelsenkirchen on Saturday. But we can do it.