05 July, 2006

Dive Dive Dive: Portugal 0 France 1

The ill will against Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo in England is vehement. Surely no French team has ever enjoyed so much support on this side of the Channel as their World Cup side do tonight.

It seems it's not just the English who feel this way. From the start resounding jeers fill the stadium every time Ronaldo touches the ball. It doesn't seem to bother him or his team-mates, however, and Portugal look good early in the game. Deco makes an opening for himself and forces a save from Barthez, while Maniche strikes just too high with a long range drive.

The match soon calms down and becomes a tough battle. It has a lot to live up to after last night's entertainment, and although it is unable to do so it is far from dull. As the half hour approaches tempers start to flare when the French feel aggrieved about a couple of free kick decisions, but the referee keeps things under control.

After 31 minutes Henry is brought down in the box and this time there is no question about it. The penalty is given and Zidane scores the kick, the ball brushing the diving Ricardo's outstretched fingers.

Five minutes later Ronaldo attempts to level things up by diving in the box. The Portuguese bench are furious that nothing is given, but the referee is right and ought to show a card for the blatant simulation. His team go in one down at half time having been, marginally, the better side.

The second half starts briskly and in France's favour. Henry beats a defender but can't get it past the keeper, who blocks with his arm at close range. A corner follows, from which Ribery unleashes a vicious strike which makes Ricardo work again, but the Portuguese keeper's reactions are excellent.

Portugal get back into it but other than a half-chance for Pauleta they struggle to create anything genuinely threatening. As the clock ticks on, however, they increase their share of the possession, and with 20 minutes to go France are desperately defending their slim lead. Barthez makes hard work of a Ronaldo free kick but the loose ball ends up on the roof of the net. Further play-acting from Pauleta and Ronaldo fails to convince the referee.

The pressure is almost relentless but France remain inpenetrable. Deep into injury time Ricardo runs to the opposite penalty area to throw himself into the mix but his efforts are in vain. The final whistle goes and France are through.

As a spectacle the second semi-final couldn't rival the first, but in the main it has been an entertaining match. Gamesmanship threatened to ruin it but the solid and fair-playing French have overcome. There will be few tears outside of Portugal.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Henry faked a penalty... as England deserved the respect of everyone after the game against Portugal, show some respect for the best team on the field: PORTUGAL!

Baz said...

Sorry Anon. Carvalho cleverly caught Henry with his trailing foot after totally missing the ball with his leading foot.

Nuno Knobhead may have been the best player on the pitch but that was a fair result.

Joe Williams said...

Yep.

Nik said...

As a man reading the Aussie press (that lost interest as soon as Australia went out) I believe that I can give an independent view - no-one is sorry that Portgal went out to an Henry dive (albeit a legitimate penalty) becuase they have disgraced this World Cup with thier antics.

The Italians used to be known as the worst divers, but they used to make the most out of an actual foul - the Portugese have been out and out cheating. Deco is the worst and he wasn't playing against England - the fact that the press of the world is on their back proves that it is not just English sour grapes.

Joe Williams said...

Yep.

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