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Wednesday, 5 June, 2002, 16:06 GMT 17:06 UK
Portuguese in shock
Portuguse fans who had watched the game in Lisbon
This was not the way it was supposed to be

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Portuguese football fans were reeling in disbelief after an unfancied United States side had little trouble beating a team originally seen as one the World Cup favourites.

Portugal's debut in the tournament had been eagerly awaited by fans who saw this as the last chance for the current generation of stars, including last year's Fifa footballer of the year Luis Figo, to make their mark as a national squad.

Around the country people gathered in homes or in cafes - which in Portugal invariably have televison sets - to watch the match.

In a Lisbon park where a giant screen and tiered seating had been set up, several thousand fans gathered in festive mood.

Many were wearing green and red Portugal scarves and were armed with whistles and streamers.

But their high hopes turned to horror as the "Tugas" went a goal down within a minute of the kick-off.

Within 30 minutes they were three goals down.

Even after Portugal clawed back two goals, the prevailing mood was one of incredulity that a team with so many stars could have been so lacklustre.

"Rui Costa should have come off earlier, and Luis Figo too," said one student who had come down to watch the match with four friends.

"If some players weren't playing well, the coach should have replaced them, and at the beginning, not the end."

Open Quote
If the game had lasted another quarter of an hour I'm sure we would have equalised
Close Quote
Jose Manuel Durao Barroso
Prime Minister
As the assembled fans rapidly dispersed in disappointment, leaving the grass strewn with their colourful debris, opinion was split on who was responsible for the debacle: the players for their lack of spirit or the manager for his failed tactics.

"We lacked the will to win," said one subdued fan. "It's all in the players' heads."

The decision by Portuguese manager Antonio Oliveira to select Vitor Baia as goalkeeper, despite his missing most of the season through injury, came in for some harsh questioning.

Baia made a series of errors, two of which contributed to US goals.

"I think the trainer was partly to blame, because he shouldn't have put Baia in goal," said one fan.

Many Portuguese are now asking whether coach and players were overconfident, while the complimentary pre-match comments by US officials in retrospect look more and more like a successful psychological ploy.

"I can't see a single weakness in the Portuguese team," US coach Bruce Arena had been quoted as saying in the Portuguese press on the eve of the match.

Portugal's prime minister, Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, called on his compatriots not to lose hope.

"It's disappointing but it's in these moments that you have to show what you can do," he told journalists. "We'll be confident and we'll support the team.

"If the game had lasted another quarter of an hour I'm sure we would have equalised," he added.


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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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