Tuesday, July 04, 2006

More Years of hurt.

Portugal 0-0 England, 0-0 a.e.t, 3-1 PSO

First - the lineups.

Portugal welcomed back Christiano Ronaldo from injury, and what a telling fact this would be (more on that later). This was welcome news for the Portugese fans who love to see him marauding down the wing, playing exciting football. Petit was in for suspended Deco which would give the side less of an attacking edge, and Tiago coming in for Costinha.

England decided on retaining the 4-5-1 much to my chagrin, as I still maintain Rooney is wasted in that formation. Neville had recovered to take his place and Hargreaves moved into the holding role in place of Carragher. A good looking side but I'd have dropped Lampard for Crouch. Lennon was also pushing Beckham hard for a starting spot. However Sven seemed to be unable to pull out the big decisions, adopting his usual cautious approach. (Also more on Sven later methinks)

The first twenty minutes was played at a frenetic pace. Chances aplenty at both ends of the pitch, - reminding us of the exciting game back at Euro 2004. It died down quite a bit for the rest of the first half though. John Terry's booking which would have ruled him out of the semi-final had England won, was a bizarre call as it appeared that both he was simply involved in a clash of heads with both players going for the ball.

The second half's first moment of note was Beckham striking Valente's hand in the penalty area. The referee adjudged ball to hand and it was probably a fair call as I've seen the same kind of incident waved on in earlier games. This was Beckham's last contribution to the game as: forced off with an injury, Lennon was introduced, and finally a real chance to see what he could do.

Lampard was then presented with a wonderful chance, the ball coming to him in heaps of space from a corner. If this had been Lampard playing for Chelsea the net would probably have bulged - instead: a diabolical effort straight into the ground and bouncing over. Then a bit of confusion between the english attackers that could so easily have seen a goal. Lennon burst past two players and into the box, the ball sat up for Rooney, except that he and Lennon seemed to be in each others way a little too much. Had Lennon laid off the pass to him a couple of seconds earlier Rooney had would have had more time and space to manoeuvre his shot. Given Lennon's run Rooney should have kept out of his way, in which case Lennon would have had an excellent opportunity to score. Instead Rooney had a hurried shot, which was practically a slice through thin air. The ball broke for Joe Cole, yet he blazed over.

Then the red card.

Rooney got in a tangle with Carvalho. He stayed on his feet as he tussled for the ball (when he could have gone down to win himself a free kick), and ended up inadvertently stamping on Carvalho's crown jewels. Ronaldo remonstrated with the ref, Rooney pushed him out of the way, and the ref pulled out the red card. There was a little confusion as to what the red card was for. The official explanation was the stamp, however I think that is what the referee decided later would be the most palatable explanation. To me it seemed as though (and my view on this intensifies on every viewing), the ref responded to the shove by pointing Rooney out, getting him to come to him, and brandish the red. To me, it looked as if the red card was for the push. Another possible explanation (also proffered to me by a few people) was that he was going to give yellow for the stamp, and after seeing the push decided to give a straight red. However now the ref says it was only for the stamp.

Regardless, Rooney is an idiot. He should have walked away from the situation instead of getting hot headed and pushing Ronaldo. It was Beckham's 1998 retaliatory kick against Argentina all over again. If it was just for the stamp though I would have some sympathy for him, it seemed like an honest tussle, it is only at super slow mo where any intent can be interpreted. But still I consider Rooney to be a silly boy.

Ironically after the sending off, England played better. And Crouch came on to replace Joe Cole to give England an attacking option, showing some nice touches up front. Portugal also continued to threaten with Maniche, Figo and Ronaldo. Lennon should have scored after Lampard's free kick was parried. There were less opportunities in extra time but still either side could have won it. Lennon had a penalty appeal turned down although it appeared Valente won the ball honestly, even if he did take a little of the player with him. There were nervy moments for both sides as quite a few corner kicks were given, and Robinson had one fingertip save to make.

England did very well to hold on with 10 men for 60 minutes, as well as create the better of the scoring chances. Lennon looked bright and artful when he came on, Hargreaves gave an excellent display in midfield in his tackling and distribution and was my man of the match. He also showed his attacking threat with one good run down the left wing, slotting the ball inside the penalty area only for no-one to quite be on hand to slot it home. Rooney was disappointing although he was frustrated with his opportunities, and Lampard again disappointed. Terry gave a mixed bag, Ferdinand did some excellent defending. Neville did qell coming back into the side, and Gerrard had his moments.

I think from the 120 minutes that on balance England deserved to win.

But deserved, shemerved. In football deserved is practically irrelevant. It was 0-0 and that was that. Penalties would decide the victor. Could England finally break their terrible record in shoot outs?

Simao scored, and Lampard, as I knew he would (at this point I was shouting at the screen with a couple of tears glistening in my eye, knowing that he would miss but telling the bastool to score) missed - Ricardo effecting the save. An early advantage. England's night over?

But then Simao sent Robinson the wrong way, and yet hit the post. Hargreaves had his hard, low penalty partially saved, but into the goal it went.

And so the two sides were level.

And then Petit missed, shaving the outside of the post (although some reckon Robbo got his fingertips to it and actually made the save). Regardless a chance opened up for England, could they take the lead?

It was Gerrard.

Surely he would be the one man you would want to take this crucial penalty. Possibly England's most crucial player, who adeptly scored in the FA cup final. He was ashen faced and nervous. And Ricardo saved.

Then Postiga scored. And Carragher who'd come onto replace Lennon (the substitute substituted!) with about 2 minutes of extra time to go, a designated penalty taker. A strange choice perhaps. Well, first he put it in the goal. But silly old Carragher hadn't waited for the whistle, and having practised shooting it in that corner changed his tack, shot to the left, and again a save, ricocheting off Ricardo's hands and onto the crossbar. Perhaps it was part of his routine, perhaps he was being a smart arse, but I tend to think Jamie made an unprofessional mistake.

And then it was left for Ronaldo to get the win.

And he did.

Ricardo got the record for most penalties saved in a shoot out at the world cup (the English players putting the ball at too nice a height for him, and Ricardo guessing the direction expertly).

It was Euro 2004 all over again. A lot of similarities.

And yet again a heroic loss for England. How they must be sick of them. And Portugal make the last four for the second time (the first time being in 66!)


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