England 0 Portugal 0 <i>(aet; Portugal win 3-1 on penalties)</i>: Ronaldo twists the knife as red mist haunts Rooney

Winger fires home decisive penalty after England talisman loses cool as Eriksson finds it third time unlucky against his old rival Scolari
Click to follow
The Independent Football

Eriksson's nemesis, Luiz Felipe Scolari, thus completed a hat-trick of crucial quarter-final victories over the Swede, ending England's hopes on penalties for the second successive tournament. With David Beckham taken off, injured and in tears, at the start of the second half, they had just begun to look the more dangerous in an even game when Rooney was dismissed. Penalty kicks brought about Portugal's first World Cup semi-final since losing to England in 1966 after Owen Hargreaves scored but Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher all missed, Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo converting the winning kick.

Circumstances made it difficult to judge the justice of yesterday's outcome, but there can be no denying that in the tournament as a whole, spread over more than eight hours of football, a supposedly golden generation have collectively underperformed. The coach must take some responsibility, especially having insisted that the squad's preparation and fitness were far superior to previous summers of disappointment.

Yesterday, the 4-1-4-1 formation made sense in matching Portugal in the centre of midfield, Scolari having replaced his suspended playmaker Deco and holding man Costinha with Armando Petit and Tiago rather than the attacking wide-man Simao Sabrosa. Ronaldo, operating down the left against his club-mate Gary Neville, was more effective than Luis Figo, who had to be substituted in the second half.

So did the main striker Pauleta, well held throughout by John Terry - who would have missed the semi-final after collecting another yellow card. Hargreaves deserved the opportunity to move back to his proper position in front of the back four, and lived up to his excellent performances for Bayern Munich, winning the official man-of-the-match award. If only England could have pencilled him in there as part of Plan B five years ago, when Eriksson first picked him.

It took a bang on Beckham's knee for Aaron Lennon to be given a chance and he immediately offered the pace that had been lacking on either flank, Joe Cole also having one of his less effective games. Unfortunately Rooney, who had been growing stronger match by match, was not at his best and in the end that suspect temperament undermined the cause.

Nor could Peter Crouch achieve anything after replacing him. Justly chided for giving the ball away in the previous matches, England showed greater patience in using the back-line to keep it but little success with the final pass. They had none the less begun promisingly, with Gerrard prominent.

His wayward pass to Rooney was turned into a threatening one by Ricardo Carvalho's slip, the shot being blocked. Gerrard then crossed too high to the far post for Terry and supplied Rooney more accurately for a shot that brought Ricardo to his knees. But there was little else to worry Scolari until the very end of the half, when Ricardo held Lampard's low drive.

In between times Ronaldo frequently produced a sight Neville was undoubtedly familiar with at United's training ground, confronting him at pace and jinking inside to shoot. His aim was too high on the first occasion and Rio Ferdinand blocked the second. Ferdinand also did well to put off Tiago when the ball dropped towards him five yards from goal. And when Maniche met Petit's cross, Paul Robinson clawed it away in some alarm.

An appearance by either Lennon or Crouch could have been predicted before too long, though not the dramas that followed. If Eriksson was summoning up the courage to remove his captain after another anonymous performance, the decision was made for him within a couple of minutes of the restart when Beckham took a knock. Lennon pulled off his orange bib immediately and had almost as instantaneous an effect on England, infiltrating from the right to set up Rooney, who miskicked and Joe Cole, lunging forward to shoot over the bar.

Quite unexpectedly, it would be almost the last intervention by either of the latter pair. On the hour Rooney tangled in midfield with Carvalho, tackling clumsily as he sometimes does and catching the Chelsea man between the legs as he brought his foot down. Ronaldo raced in to protest and to a gasp reminiscent of Beckham's sending off against Argentina in 1998, the referee flourished a red card. Joe Cole had to be sacrificed to bring on Crouch, who was poorly served by crosses from Hargreaves and Gerrard as England twice defied the numerical disadvantage to break dangerously down the left.

Reduced to 4-4-1 England had understandably suffered some other uncomfortable moments, notably when Robinson had to turn away a cross-shot by Figo and then save low down from Hugo Viana. But Lennon wasted a much better chance with a weak miscued shot as Lampard's well struck free-kick came back off the goalkeeper. So to extra-time, in which Robinson saved from Simao and Petit and was relieved to see a flag raised for offside as the third substitute Helder Postiga headed past him.

In the shoot-out, with Portugal having the psychological advantage of leading off, four of the first six kicks were missed - by Lampard, Gerrard, Viana and Petit, leaving the score at one each. But Ricardo, the hero of the 2004 shoot-out, then defied Carragher as Postiga and Ronaldo did their job.

Comments