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Monday, 3 July, 2000, 05:52 GMT 06:52 UK
As Portugal crash out, was their reaction to a controversial penalty justified or should their players have accepted defeat with better grace?
Many people saw them as the great entertainers of Euro 2000, but Portugal bowed out in a controversial semi-final, facing punishment from UEFA after their players' reaction to the award of an ultimately decisive spot-kick.
Abel Xavier blocked a shot from French striker Sylvain Wiltord only minutes from the end of extra time and the referee initially awarded a corner.
Only after consulting his assistant did Austrian official Gunter Benko decide to award a spot-kick.
Both men were soon surrounded by Portuguese players, the inspirational Luis Figo threw down his shirt in disgust and stormed from the field and Nuno Gomes was sent off in the ensuing melee.
This was as close as the country has come to the final of a major tournament, and the significance of the game was clearly not lost of the Portuguese side.
Portugal are to be the hosts of Euro 2004 and in such a high-profile event their behaviour was witnessed by millions watching around the globe.
So is there any possible excuse for the players' actions or do they deserve whatever punishment comes their way?
I am disgusted that such an
unprofessional decision was made by the referee. It has changed my view of international football for good.The Portuguese had a right to be angry,I don't think that any other team would have reacted differently.
Portugal was completely justified in its reaction. Uefa went overboard in its sanctions against Gomes, Xavier & Bento. The linesman could not have possibly seen the play the way it unfolded, and the referee should not have awarded a penalty. The handball was clearly unintentional, and at the speed at which the play unfolded, Abel Xavier could not have possibly intended to handball IN THE AREA at such a crucial time in the match. France is living proof that it is better to be lucky than good.
It was correct that the assistant referee observed Xavier's hand, but I think that the referee should have made a different decision. It was a hand and something should have been done but it was not good to ruin the match. The Portuguese team's reaction is understandable but not forgivable.
The lesson from this disappointing scenario was not that Portugal - who clearly reacted with sincere if explosive emotion, and who are after all footballers, not
Rui Costa was sent off for taking too long to walk off the field in a 1998 World Cup qualifier in Germany. Portugal were on the verge of beating Germany in Germany, a defeat which would have prevented Germany from participating in the World Cup. In the end, Germany turned the game around and went through at the expense of Portugal. The semi-final penalty decision therefore comes as no surprise. To quote the words of a UEFA official, "a final between France and Holland would be magnificent".
Bruno Duarte, Portugal
I don't subscribe to the conspiracy theories but it was an horrendous decision. However, perhaps the Portuguese should have redirected their anger towards Abel Xavier - his input to the incident was clearly as damaging to their dreams as that of the officials.
Of course the Portuguese reaction was not justified. No team should ever react to a refereeing decision the way they did? But can anyone imagine any other team reacting differently in the circumstances? This was surely one of the worst refereeing moments ever seen in international football.
I've been pretty impressed with the officiating at Euro 2000 and the France v Portugal game was no exception. There was no doubt the penalty call by the assistant was spot on and I admire Mr. Igor Sramka. The referees don't make the rules they make sure they are adhered to. Xavier says his conscience is clear, but it certainly is not as clear as the assistant's view of the hand ball.
The Golden Goal system is to blame. I don't think it was designed with penalties in mind.
Martin D, England
It has been shown, by various computer simulations, and 3D modelling, that the linesman could not have seen the handball incident without moving two paces either way, since there were two players completely obscuring his view.
During the game, if an incident goes unnoticed by the referee, the linesman can, if he sees it, point it out. In this instance though, the linesman pointed out an incident that he had no knowledge about, based purely on the reactions of the French players.
I think that in light of this evidence, Portugal should escape any punishment and instead UEFA should look into the actions of that linesman.
Portugal had every right to react in such a way, I have never seen such an obvious bias. This would never of happened to France. UEFA should feel disgusted by choosing such unprofessional officials who made it too obvious that they preferred France. This is a shame for France, not Portugal. France won the semi-final by a decision that has nothing to do with football, only politics.
The decision shows the folly of the Golden Goal system. If the goal scored is in any way controversial, players will undoubtedly argue the decision, because the goal is the final act of the game, without any opportunity to reply. Unlike the penalty shoot-out, this is not a good way to decide a game of football. The prize at stake is usually way too high for the game to be decided by a controversial goal.
As for the Portuguese reaction, whilst not condoning it, do you seriously believe any other team would have reacted less furiously in the same circumstances?
At least two other comments have suggested that although the penalty decision was "technically correct" the referee should have used his "common sense" and not given it. How can we possibly have a game where the referee has the discretion as to whether to apply the rules in view of who is the underdog, what is best for the game as a whole or who will react best?
Moh'd Rebdi, KSA
I was at the stadium and no-one really understood what had happened. I truly appreciated the Portuguese reaction. We are all tired of this new image of UEFA and FIFA, all nice pats on the back. It was refreshing to see Portugal erupt that way. To see great players such as Figo tell those snotty referees what they should sometimes hear. There was no violence on the part of the Portuguese players, just verbal abuse, which sometimes may be merited. At the end of the day, it was the best team on the field winning in the worst possible way.
The reaction of the Portuguese was not acceptable, but is understandable. A match like that shouldn't be resolved that way. I think it was a political decision. Portugal is a small country and had already sent home great potencies like England and Germany.
It was not the best attitude for the Portuguese, but I understand them. I think a penalty must be awarded if there are no doubts about it. In a game like this, a semi-final, three minutes to penalties, the referee should use his good sense and let the players decide the match.
When can football referees start treating the spoilt little boys of football like the referees
Julian Dark, UK
In the replay, it looked to me like the ball would have hit Xavier's hand anyway, so I can't see that it should have been a penalty. Portugal outplayed France in the first half, and they had real chances of winning. It was a rotten decision, and it was a shame for them to go out that way. As for the scenes after the penalty was awarded, were the Portuguese really to be expected to accept without protest?
How can a referee give away a dubious penalty to decide a match? It was clearly shown in slow motion that Xavier was already falling down. How could he intentionally hand the ball?
I think the Portuguese behaviour was downright disgusting, they should be strongly punished by UEFA. I feel sorry for the officials considering their decision was 100% correct.
I understand why the Portuguese reacted the way they did, a penalty given during sudden death is the equivalent of handing France the game. Speaking as a referee, it was the worst decision I have ever seen in my life. A referee has to be 100% sure that the penalty given was a correct one, and the fact that he had to consult the assistant referee undermines that adage. Also, referees are taught that handball calls should be made when the hand appears to have struck the ball, not the other way around. I don't condone their actions, but when you have the game taken away from you by the officials on a blatantly bad call, what else can you do?
I doubt whether any other team would have reacted differently. It was not a clear foul, what option did Xavier have? Amputate his hand? It was just there next to his hips. He wasn't really going for the ball. I think the Portuguese need to have a fine, but please don't ban such an attraction, that's what football is all about!
Doesn't it just show the ludicrous nature of the Golden Goal system - at least with the old system the Portuguese would have had a chance to let their feet do the talking, even if only for a few minutes more. Take that away from them and what do you expect?
I think its a shame the referee decided to award the penalty. The decision may be technically correct,
Franklin Oikelome, Nigeria
Unfortunately, the word sport seems to have no meaning for many of today's players. Funny that many decent England fans were arrested and deported for less.
Whatever the decision players should not approach the referee or his assistants with such force.
The Portuguese team have entertained us all with their fantastic football. It is understandable that any team would react nervously and that is what the Portuguese did. However, hard truth is bitter to swallow. The decision made by the line referee was with no doubt correct. Justice was done.
Portugal's behaviour is not justifiable. But, the referee should have used some common sense and not awarded the penalty since he had to consult the assistant referee.
C Mohan, Singapore
The frustration of the Portuguese players is understandable under the circumstances, especially after the referee initially awarded a corner. However, this does not justify their actions.
The most disappointing aspect was that Luis Figo walked from the pitch before the penalty was taken. To see the most inspirational player do that could only have sent a negative message to the 'keeper who still had the opportunity to keep them in the game.
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