Portugal holds all the cards in its win over Netherlands
The four red cards set the record for the most in a World Cup game.
Portugal edged the Netherlands 1-0 on a first-half goal by midfielder Maniche. The game was marred with dangerous tackles, pushing, head butting, elbowing, and generally atrocious soccer, none of which helped keep awake Korean fans who had to get up at 4 a.m. yesterday to catch the start.
The loss signified more than just another disappointing elimination for the Netherlands: it will also likely mean the end of two accomplished veterans’ international careers.
Midfielder Phillip Cocu and goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar are the oldest players on the Dutch squad, both born on Oct. 29, 1970. They are the only carryovers from the 1998 World Cup, the last time the Netherlands participated, and they have both represented their country in 214 total matches.
After the Maniche goal, van der Sar kept the team in the game with some key saves, including one on a close-range shot by Pauleta near the end of first half and a sprawling stop on Maniche in the 57th minute.
The Dutch opened the second half with a man advantage after defender Costinha was sent off with a second yellow card on a handball in the dying moments of the first half.
The Netherlands’ best scoring chance came less than five minutes into the second half. Cocu was on the receiving end of a friendly bounce, after teammate Mark van Bommel missed a bicycle kick attempt. But with goalkeeper Ricardo down, Cocu rattled the ball off the crossbar from eight yards out.
After the match, van der Sar lamented his team’s lack of finishing touch around the goal.
“Falling a goal behind was no problem, but then you have to score the first chance you get and that one we missed,” he told reporters in Nuremberg. “At the end, we didn’t get the ball where it should be.”
Portugal will play England at midnight Saturday. The English edged Ecuador 1-0 on a free kick by captain David Beckham in the 60th minute. He is the first English player to score in three World Cups.
For goalkeepers, Beckham’s free kicks are like pick-and-roll plays by John Stockton and Karl Malone from the heyday of NBA’s Utah Jazz: everyone knows they are coming, but that doesn’t mean they will be easy to stop.
Ecuador’s goalkeeper Cristian Mora certainly knew. He even managed to get a fingertip on the ball, but the spot kick from 38 yards out had just enough strength to curl to Mora’s right that the keeper couldn’t quite make the full stop.
“It was ugly at times, and we haven’t played to our full potential,” Beckham told Reuters. “But we’re happy tonight.”
England looks to have the advantage in manpower over Portugal. Though its own Michael Owen is out with a knee injury, England won’t have to face key players such as midfielder Deco and defender Constinha, both ejected from yesterday’s match on two yellow cards, and striker Cristiano Ronaldo, who only played 34 minutes after taking hits to his right thigh.
The last World Cup showdown between the two came in the semifinal in 1966. England prevailed 2-1, and went on to capture its first and only World Cup title.
by Yoo Jee-ho
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