Portugal end Turkish dreams

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The Independent Online
reports from the City Ground

Portugal 1 Turkey 0

A fervent atmosphere generated largely by Turkey's excitable followers disguised an undistinguished Group D match here, won unconvincingly by Portugal through a 66th-minute volley by the Parma defender, Fernando Couto.

The result spells elimination for Turkey and the end of a delirious adventure for the thousands of their countrymen who had flocked to Nottingham these last few days, only to see their side lose twice at the City Ground by the same scoreline.

Portugal complete their programme here next Wednesday against Croatia, who meet Denmark in Sheffield tomorrow. Although a point could be enough for Antonio Oliveira's team, so tight is this group that an outright win might still be necessary.

And that is something they cannot take for granted, by any means. For all their clever touches, the Portuguese look essentially lightweight and the pre-match suggestion by Rui Costa, their midfield creator, that they lack a striker of genuine international calibre, has a still more truthful ring to it now.

Indeed, the Turks, had they not revealed shortcomings of their own in attack, might easily have embarrassed the team dubbed the "Brazil of Europe", especially had a dubious challenge by Helder on Saffet Sancakli been punished with a penalty.

Turkey moved comfortably through midfield, exposing the Portuguese back line to several moments of unease, only to let themselves down with a wasteful final pass. For all their possession, they failed to properly stretch goalkeeper Vitor Baia, who was not required to make a single save of note.

The balance of clear chances, at least, confirmed the result as a just one. In the first half, Ricardo Sa Pinto should have scored his second goal of the tournament, side-footing wide of the far post after a cross by Rui Costa who had brilliantly outwitted Abdullah Ercan and Ogun Temizkanoglu. Later in the first half, Helder's acrobatic attempt to deflect Sa Pinto's shot past goalkeeper Rustu Recber flashed narrowly wide.

In the second period, Joao Pinto, with only the goalkeeper in his path, controlled Dimas's cross on his chest, only to take it wide and spoil his angle.

And, finally, the decisive goal, the consequence of a corner on the right. Paulo Sousa's shot initially found a defender in its way, but the ball spun across the penalty area to Fernando Couto, who volleyed with his left foot, the ball swerving away from Rustu's dive.

But the Turkish players rallied. Soon Fernando Couto was executing vital tackles to halt the frustrated Hakan Sukur and Abdullah as they drove forward.

Two minutes from the end, Portugal's lead looked vulnerable when Paulo Sousa brought down Sergen Yalcin just outside the penalty area. But the latter, taking the free-kick himself, sent the ball tamely over the bar, which, so far as the Turks were concerned, summed things up rather fittingly.

n Turkey's striker Ertugrul Saglam has returned to Istanbul following the death of his sister, who had recently given birth.

Goal: Fernando Couto (66) 1-0.

PORTUGAL (4-5-1): Vitor Baia (Porto); Paulinho Santos (Porto), Fernando Couto (Parma), Helder (Benfica), Dimas (Benfica); Sa Pinto (Sporting Lisbon), Figo (Barcelona), Paulo Sousa (Juventus), Rui Costa (Fiorentina), Folha (Porto); Joao Pinto (Benfica). Substitutes: Tavares (Boavista) for Folha, h-t; Cadete (Celtic) for Sa Pinto, 65; Porfirio (Uniao Leiria) for Joao Pinto, 77.

TURKEY (5-3-2): Rustu (Fenerbahce); Recep (Besiktas), Alpay (Besiktas), Vedat (Karabukspor), Ogun (Trabzonspor), Abdullah (Trabzonspor); Oguz (Fenerbahce), Tugay (Galatasaray), Sergen (Besiktas); Hakan (Galatasaray), Saffet (Kocaelispor). Substitutes: Rahim (Genclerbirligi) for Ogun, h- t; Tolunay (Trabzonspor) for Saffet, 63; Arif (Galatasaray) for Oguz, 69.

Referee: S Puhl (Hungary).

Bookings: Portugal: Paulinho Santos, Figo, Tavares. Turkey: Abdullah, Vedat, Rahim, Tolunay.

Man of the match: Fernando Couto. Attendance: 22,670.

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