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Friday, 14 June, 2002, 19:15 GMT 20:15 UK
Figo adamant pride intact
Luis Figo is flat out after Portugal's exit
Luis Figo is flat out after Portugal's exit
Luis Figo insists Portugal are leaving the World Cup with their heads held high, despite a record of just one win and two defeats from a dismal qualifying group stage.

Fancied Portugal needed just a draw from their final group match against co-hosts South Korea but ended the tournament wracked with indiscipline.

They finished the match with nine men on the pitch after Argentine referee Angel Sanchez dismissed Joao Pinto and Beto.

Open Quote
People will obviously realise that if we had a bit of luck, things might have turned out differently
Close Quote
Luis Figo

Figo refused to comment directly on the referee's decisions to show Joao Pinto a straight red card for a reckless challenge, and a second yellow to defender Beto.

He would only say: "If the referee wants to be the star of the match that's up to him but we are not going to comment on it.

"I won't talk about the refereeing team, which would only give them more of a role than they had for 90 minutes.

"We knew we would face a quality side, and the game's circumstances made things even more difficult," said Figo.

Portugal's coach Antonio Oliveira also refused to be drawn on the referee.

He said: "It makes no sense to comment on the referee now," said a stunned Oliveira.

"We did not agree with his decisions - but there will be no more comments now about this."

Portugal came within inches of the equaliser which would have kept them in the competition when Sergio Conceicao hit the inside of the post, leading Figo to bemoan his side's luck.

"People who were here or saw the game on television will obviously realise that if we had a bit of luck, things might have turned out differently.

"Playing at a high level with 10 men is hard, and more so with nine. But the team didn't give up.

Open Quote
Football doesn't stop here, our careers go on, the only thing to do is to try and do better in future competitions
Close Quote
Luis Figo

"Even when we were outnumbered we had the best chances.

"We fought until the last minute. We did everything possible to achieve a result and we are leaving the World Cup with our heads high."

Portugal's exit could well bring the curtain down on their Golden Generation, a group of players who have been together since winning the World Youth championships in 1989 and 1991.

Figo was among the players who left the pitch in tears, and he said: "When you don't achieve your goals you have to be disappointed.

"But football doesn't stop here. Our careers go on, the only thing to do is to try and do better in future competitions."

Portugal host the European Championships in 2004 and midfielder Paulo Bento said: "We have to start to work and get ourselves ready in the best way possible for Euro 2004."


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GROUP D
  P GD PTS
SOUTH KOREA 3 +3 7
USA 3 -1 4
PORTUGAL 3 +2 3
POLAND 3 -4 3




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