Fri, Jul 02, 2004 - Page 24 News List

Portugal controls Netherlands match

EURO 2004 The host nation, in despair when their stars lost 2-1 to the Greeks in the first game of the tournament, was ecstatic after this victory


Portugal's goalkeeper Ricardo celebrates after defeating the Netherlands in a Euro 2004 semifinal match at the Jose Alvalade stadium in Lisbon, Wednesday.


Millions of flag-waving, car-honking Portuguese celebrated their nation's first berth in a major soccer final. Suddenly that stunning opening-game loss to Greece was a distant memory.

A month after FC Porto won Europe's biggest prize for clubs -- the Champions League -- Portugal on Wednesday made it to the Euro 2004 championship game by beating the Netherlands 2-1.

The host nation, in despair when their stars lost 2-1 to the Greeks in the first game of the three-week tournament, was ecstatic after this historic semifinal victory.

With Luis Figo showing the form that won him FIFA's Player of the Year in 2001, the Portuguese finally made it to a final after semifinal exits at the 1966 World Cup and the 1984 and 2000 Euros.

"I'd trade everything I've ever won for this one moment," Figo said, looking ahead to the July 4 final in Lisbon. Portugal will meet either Greece of the Czech Republic.

"The support we've been getting, just thinking about it gives me goose bumps."

The result means that coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has the chance to become the first to lead two different teams to both the World Cup and European title. Two years ago, he guided his Brazilian countrymen to their fifth World Cup triumph.

"It's a historic moment for the country" Figo said. "I think Portugal has fantastic players, young players, and the country has to be happy for the future because we have all the conditions to continue to have a great team. It's difficult to describe the emotions, but we are really happy because the people can enjoy it and celebrate tonight."

Cristiano Ronaldo headed home a corner in the 26th minute and Nuno Maniche drove a stunning 22m strike into the top left corner of Edwin van der Sar's goal in the 58th to put the host two goals ahead before a Jorge Andrade own-goal gave the Dutch some hope.


* Portugal: Ricardo Pereira; Ricardo Carvalho, Jorge Andrade, Nuno Valente, Miguel; Luis Figo, Costinha, Deco, Nuno Maniche (Fernando Couto 87th), Cristiano Ronaldo (Armando Petit 68th); Pauleta (Nuno Gomes 75th)

* Netherlands: Edwin Van der Sar; Michael Reiziger, Jaap Stam, Wilfred Bouma (Rafael van der Vaart 55th), Giovanni van Bronckhorst; Edgar Davids, Clarence Seedorf, Phillip Cocu; Marc Overmars (Roy Makaay 46th), Ruud van Nistelrooy, Arjen Robben (Pierre van Hooijdonk 81st)

* Referee: Anders Frisk, Sweden

The Dutch, who won the Euro title in 1988, lost in the semifinal for the second time in a row, beaten by Italy four years ago in Rotterdam.

"You always come here to win the final but we got to the semifinal and it was good to come this far," said Dutch coach Dick Advocaat.

"But the best team won tonight. Portugal controlled almost the whole game, especially in the first-half, and deserved to reach the final."

At the final whistle some Portuguese players fell flat on the grass, exhausted and unbelieving. In the packed stands the ecstatic fans chanted, waved red and green scarves and jumped up and down waving thousands of Portuguese flags.

Before 46,679 fans at Sporting Lisbon's Jose Alvalade Stadium, the Portuguese regularly opened up a Dutch defense missing injured veteran Frank de Boer. The Portuguese could had led 2-0 or 3-0 at halftime. In the ninth minute Figo, who was the main source of the best Portuguese moves and was named man of the match, broke down the right and sent over a low cross. Ronaldo, sliding in just three meters from the goalline, was unable to get his foot to the ball.

But the Portuguese were soon ahead, this time from a corner.

Ronaldo won it on the left, Deco delivered the cross and the teenager was perfectly positioned and unmarked to head home from close range.

The Dutch had a chance to level within a minute, but the unmarked Marc Overmars, recalled for his first start of the championship, fired over the bar with an angled 10-meter strike after Edgar Davids' left wing cross had been flicked on.

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