Portugal triumphs in game marred by fouls
NUREMBERG, Germany (AP) -- Portugal survived a brutal foul-fest with the Netherlands, one of the dirtiest matches in World Cup history. Cleats bashed into thighs and shoulders, heads butted and elbows flew.
Are refs to blame?
Every bit as ugly: the blaming and finger-pointing that came after Portugal's 1-0 win Sunday, a victory that cost the Portuguese two key starters for their upcoming quarterfinal match with England.
"FIFA talks about fair play," Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said. "There was no fair play."
The Dutch coach, Marco Van Basten, shot back:
"If you talk about fair play, you should watch yourself first," adding that the Portuguese needed the shenanigans to beat his young team.
"They were a bit more experienced with all these tricks and all this time wasting," he said.
But when it came to expulsions, the sides were level at 2-2. The four red cards were a World Cup first and raised the number in this tournament -- whose motto is "A time to make friends" -- to 23, already a World Cup record after 52 matches with 12 to go.
There were 20 cards (16 yellow, 4 red) handed out in Portugal's 1-0 win over the Netherlands on Sunday.
2nd minute -- YELLOW CARD. Netherlands' Mark Van Bommel is cautioned for a trip on Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo.
|* The current tally of 23 red cards for the 2006 World Cup surpasses the previous record of 22 expulsions at the 1998 tournament.|
Portugal also lost Cristiano Ronaldo, a creative attacker, who came off with a leg injury from a second harsh foul. His status was still uncertain.
"Cristiano has five, six days to recover. We hope he will recover," said Scolari, who extended his World Cup record mark to 11 straight victories amid the chaos. The Brazilian led his home country to the 2002 title.
The 16 yellow cards Sunday tied a World Cup match record, with nine for Portugal and seven for the Netherlands.
But the difference in the game was a beautiful goal by Maniche in the 23rd minute that came off a quick threat on the edge of the area. Pauleta touched the ball to Maniche, who skipped inside a defender and shot right-footed past goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar from 16 yards.
After that, the bile began to rise, and the best the Dutch could do in reply was send cross after cross. Veteran midfielder Phillip Cocu sent a volley crashing on the bar and out again in the 48th minute.
"It is sad there was so little soccer played in the second half," Van Basten said.
With star striker Ruud Van Nistelrooy sidelined for tactical reasons, his replacement Dirk Kuyt came close twice, but not close enough.
"We didn't have the luck to score goals," said Van Basten, who lost his first competitive game since taking the job after the Netherlands lost to a Maniche goal in the semifinals of Euro 2004.
"Our missed opportunities, that made the difference," Van der Sar said.
The Netherlands also lost two players to red cards from Russian referee Valentin Ivanov -- Khalid Boulahrouz and Giovanni van Bronckhorst. In the end, the one thing both sides could agree on was blaming Ivanov.
"It is a pity the referee made a mess of this game," van Basten said.
Even FIFA president Sepp Blatter was unimpressed with how the game was handled.
"The refereeing wasn't up to the level of the teams," Blatter told Portugal TV on Sunday night. "Today certainly wasn't a fair-play day."
Amid the expulsions, the Portuguese held together better than the Dutch.
"From the start of the tournament our great strength has resided in our unity and the great support of the whole country," Figo said.
In two minutes before halftime, the game could have turned.
First, Van der Sar produced a stunning save on a point-blank shot from Pauleta in the goalmouth. Moments later, Costinha inexplicably handled a simple through pass for his second yellow card.
By that time, Ronaldo was already in tears on the bench after he left the field injured following an ugly, high tackle into his groin from Boulahrouz.
It set up a thrilling second half, with an outmanned Portugal facing a Dutch team still looking for its touch.
In the 63rd, however, Boulahrouz elbowed the irrepressible Figo on another run, earning his second yellow card.
Deco later lost his poise and first made a wild tackle on defender John Heitinga and followed it up with childish time-wasting in the 76th minute to be sent off by referee Valentin Ivanov.
In injury time, Van Bronckhorst was sent off for a second yellow card, making it nine-on-nine for the final seconds. The Barcelona teammates sat together in the dugout to watch the finale.