England's European dream dies in another penalty nightmare

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The Independent Online

Wayne's world came crashing down in another English failure in a penalty shoot-out last night after a man from north London undermined their spirited European Championship challenge and David Beckham blamed the state of the pitch for missing another spot-kick.

Wayne's world came crashing down in another English failure in a penalty shoot-out last night after a man from north London undermined their spirited European Championship challenge and David Beckham blamed the state of the pitch for missing another spot-kick.

Wayne Rooney, undisputed player of the tournament until last night, had to be substituted after little more than a quarter of a compelling evening's entertainment with an injury later diagnosed as a broken foot. Tottenham Hotspur's apparently unwanted striker, Helder Postiga, then headed a late equalising goal to Michael Owen's early one to take a thrilling quarter-final tie to extra-time, in which Rui Costa and Frank Lampard exchanged goals.

In the shoot-out, Beckham shot wildly high and Darius Vassell had his kick saved, Portugal's goalkeeper Ricardo striding forward to beat his opposite number, David James, with the decisive effort. England had complained to Uefa before the game about the state of the penalty spots, and Beckham clearly believed that there had been no improvement.

Sven Goran Eriksson, England's head coach, said: "Twice before both games we played at this stadium we complained [about the penalty spots]. I complained personally to the Uefa official responsible about the penalty spot and then yesterday for a second time we talked about it again to Uefa and they said they would replace some of the grass on it."

Owen said: "We trained on the pitch on Wednesday and a lot of players were losing their footing then. Some players like David [Beckham], when they hit a dead ball, put quite a lot of weight on their standing foot. David is one of those and Rui Costa is the same. The ground seemed to move from underneath him as well when he missed his penalty."

England might have won right at the end of normal time, were it not for a decision to disallow a header by Sol Campbell, who suffered a similar fate in the 1998 World Cup defeat on penalties by Argentina. The goal was disallowed because of a foul by John Terry, but Eriksson refused to criticise referee Urs Meier, saying: "The referee has decided and you cannot do anything about that."

Lampard was convinced that Campbell's effort should not have been disallowed. "I could see that John [Terry] had hardly touched their keeper and I think the linesman was running back to the halfway line to give the goal."

Eriksson said: "To lose in this way is very hard. The spirit has been fantastic and I have no complaints about anything. The players and the atmosphere all the way have been fantastic." He added: "It's hard to lose as we did. I thought at the end of 90 minutes 1-1 was a fair result. I'm going to stay on because there's a World Cup in two years' time and I want to play in more than the quarter-finals in big tournaments."

Eriksson denied that England had been too negative against the hosts. "It was 1-1 and then 2-2 and they were just better than us at scoring penalties," he said.

"Always when Portugal play they have more possession than their opponents because technically they are a really good side and although they had some shots from outside the box they did not create very much inside it. Portugal could have been 2-0 down at half-time. It's not only possession it's also about making chances and we did so."

Scolari said: "Thank God for everything He's given us, culminating with that penalty that Ricardo both saved and made. That's the kind of thing that makes us thank God."

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