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When England go into
this game, they will already know the result
of the Germany - Romania encounter. Whether that helps or hinders
Keegan's boys, remains to be seen.
Keegan may fancy his side's chances in this
tournament but shouldn't be taking any himself. The England manager once again looks to
the experience of his trusty workhorses to grind out a result against Portugal. With three
points on the table, the fancy football may come later.
Alan Shearer came through a Saturday training
session and says he's fit to play; whether he should or not was a hot discussion with the
fans during the World Cup in France, two years ago -- asset or liability? It depends if
the team is about spirit, or creativity. Tony Adams may no longer touch spirits in a
bottle but he still has plenty of it in his heart. Standing behind him may well be David
Seaman. Past his sell-by date perhaps, and no longer up to the ordeal of penalties.
If Steve McManaman takes up his position on
the left and David Beckham is at his best on the right, England may just pose something of
a threat. Beckham will need to control his tantrums and direct his energy positively; it
helps when all eleven players remain on the pitch for the full duration of a game.
McManaman's experience at Real Madrid will be
an asset, although he'll need a strong head to forget his previous England performances
that never were. Give away possession too much, and Figo will be past him with Phil
Neville in his sights. Some have said that if the brothers Neville didn't play together at
Manchester United, they might not be in an England shirt at all.
Portugal have something of an
injury scare. The 30-year-old Porto goalkeeper, Vitor Baia, has had surgery on his right
knee and pulled out of a recent warm-up. It's doubtful if he can kick with his right foot
Paolo Sousa, the Parma midfielder, is also
receiving treatment on his thigh.
The England game plan must be to put Figo on
the back foot and restrict Portugal's chances of passing the ball around. Rui Costa would
cherish any space given and Joao Pinto's no slouch either.
In qualifying, Portugal averaged 3.2 goals a
game and only conceded four in their ten matches. Sounds impressive, until you take into
account that most of the goals were scored in two games against Liechtenstein and the home
encounter with Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan 1-1 (Qual)
Romania 1-1 (Qual)
Hungary 3-0 (Qual)
Poland 0-0 (Qual)
Scotland 2-0 (Play-off)
Scotland 0-1 (Play-off)
14-Abel Xavier, 2-Jorge Costa, 5-Fernando Couto, 13-Xavier Dimas
7-Luis Figo, 10-Rui Costa, 4-Jose Vidigal, 17-Paulo Bento
8-Joao Pinto, 21-Nuno Gomes
2-G Neville, 5-Adams, 4-Campbell, 3-P Neville
7-Beckham, 14-Ince, 8-Scholes, 11-McManaman
Referee: Anders Frisk
Forty-five minutes of turbo-charged, end to end action is the only way to describe the
start to this game.
Within three minutes Kevin Keegan has a smile
on his face as Paul Scholes rises to head home a high, curling, David
Beckham cross from the right. The header goes in off the underside of the crossbar.
Straight away Luis Figo and Rui Costa are down
the other end to test David Seaman and the English defence. The Arsenal goalkeeper is
forced to punch the ball away.
Rui Costa gets a cross in to Joao Pinto.
Seaman is all over the place and can only thank the heavens that the header was down to
the floor instead of towards its target.
England breaking on every chance, and Portugal
are back at them again. Rui Costa from 35yards forces a flying save from Seaman; for a
The second England goal comes in eighteen
minutes. Michael Owen feeds the ball to David Beckham at the right edge of the area. The
Manchester glamour-boy crosses to an unmarked Steve McManaman at the far
post. The former Liverpool player side-foots a curling volley.
Straight from the kick-off Rui Costa has a
goal disallowed for offside but Figo soon pulls one back for the
Portuguese. England are caught square and David Seaman watches the ball rocket past his
head into the net.
Fifteen minutes later and it's all square.
England's attack is cut out and Portugal come again slowly. Rui Costa crosses from the
right edge of the box as Joao Pinto runs to the front of the English
defence and glances a powerful header past Seaman.
The end of the match was the mirror opposite of the start. Kevin Keegan's face hung low as
he watched the Portuguese walk to get the ball for throw-ins, talk about free-kicks, and
generally drag the game out as long as possible. Even Paulo Bento thought his boots needed
High entertainment had turned into a total
farce. The Swedish referee eventually chose to show the yellow card to Vito Baia, on the
90th minute, for wasting what little time was left.
The Portuguese had destroyed England just
before the hour with another display of fine pace, precision passing and a brilliant
finish by Nuno Gomes; aid and abetted by more poor defending on England's
part. Tony Adams could only hold his hips in shame.
The third Portuguese goal came straight after
Steve McManaman limped off with an injured left knee, to be replaced by Dennis Wise.
England were already missing Michael Owen
since the restart, with Emile Heskey on as his replacement. Try as they could, England
never found any rhythm after Portugal took the lead. Portugal were in command, playing the
ball around to cries of Ole then flying forward through Rui Costa and Figo. England had
their moments, but they were brief; and Portugal slowed the game down again.
Portugal 3 -- England 2
Man of the Match:
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Mon. 12th June:
Game 05 Germany - Romania