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Sunday, 2 July, 2000, 13:48 GMT 14:48 UK
Uefa suspends Portuguese trio
The Portugal players show their disgust
Portugal's Abel Xavier, Nuno Gomes and Paulo Bento have been banned from Uefa competitions for a combined total of almost two years following the fracas at the end of their semi-final defeat by France.

Uefa has also fined the Portuguese Football Federation around 70,000 for attacks on the match officials.

Everton defender Xavier, who handled the ball which led to an extra-time 'golden goal' penalty, has been suspended for nine months from international matches.

Striker Gomes, who received a red card for protesting at the penalty decision, has been hit with an eight-month suspension by Uefa's disciplinary committee, while Bento, who verbally accosted match officials, has been banned for six months.

Violent protests

The suspensions will hit Portugal hard, robbing the side of three key players for the opening games of the qualifying campaign for the 2002 World Cup.

They also apply to Champions League and Uefa Cup games.

"The referees were pushed and harassed by Portuguese players, suffering bruises and scratches of some consideration," a Uefa statement explained.

The statement also confirmed that Austrian referee Gunter Benko was correct to award the penalty which brought about the chaotic scenes, insisting: "It was an obvious handball."

I'm deeply shocked... I did not expect a punishment of this nature

Abel Xavier

The Portuguese players had suggested after their violent protests that they were victims of a plot to ensure the big names of European soccer made the final.

Xavier claimed he was "deeply shocked" after being handed the ban.

He said: "I'm deeply shocked and disappointed. I did not expect a punishment of this nature.

"I reiterate that I did nothing wrong. The footage is available and people can watch it.

"This does great damage to my career, because at the moment, there were clubs which were interested in me, clubs which are involved in European competitions."

Portugal have until midnight on July 5 to appeal against the punishments.

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See also:

29 Jun 00 | Portugal
Uefa delays decision on fracas
28 Jun 00 | Euro2000
Portugal coach resigns
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