Football around the world: Souness takes the flak

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The Independent Online
Portugal

GRAEME SOUNESS might be well advised to start running off a few copies of his CV. The former Liverpool and Rangers manager may not be coach of Benfica for much longer.

Souness needed a police escort to leave the Stadium of Light following his side's 3-0 home defeat to Boavista, one of their rivals for the Portuguese title, on Sunday.

The majority of the 80,000 crowd in Lisbon had waved white handkerchiefs at Souness in a familiar gesture of contempt towards the end of the game, while chanting for him to be sacked. The former Scotland midfielder then waited two and a half hours to leave the ground by a side exit, shielded from around 100 angry fans by two police cars with sirens wailing.

The match was a tough introduction to Portuguese football for two of the coach's recent signings, Gary Charles from Aston Villa and Steve Harkness from Liverpool, who were both making their debuts.

Harkness was Benfica's best player and Charles came closest to scoring, but Souness has come under increasing criticism during his time with the club for buying British instead of Portuguese players. His insistence on occasionally using a long-ball game is also unpopular.

Souness was at work as normal yesterday, holding a behind-closed-doors training session. In typically defiant mood, he said: "We're in third place in the table, just three points behind second place and four behind leaders Porto, yet there's still nine games to go and 27 points to play for.

"I'm feeling cool and relaxed. I've a Scottish mentality, not a Latin mentality, which means I will not give up."

Souness has also been backed by Benfica's president, Joao Vale e Azevedo, who was forced to pacify the furious fans after the game. He said: "I am not going to make an emotional decision. I know we did not play well, but things will remain as they are."

Japan

A SMALL piece of Japanese football history was made on Saturday when the match between JEF United Ichihara and Urawa Reds finished 0-0 - the first drawn game in the seven-year history of the J-League.

From the inaugural year in 1993 to last season, the league used penalty shoot-outs to determine a winner if teams were level after 30 minutes of "golden goal" extra time. But officials decided to scrap the shoot- outs this season and award both teams one point for a draw after 120 minutes. Fans had to wait until only the second round of fixtures this term for the first draw to be recorded.

Africa

GHANA AND Nigeria will co-host the 2000 African Nations' Cup, the African Football Confederation announced yesterday. They replace Zimbabwe, who failed to meet stadia and financial targets, in staging the 16-team event next January and February.

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