An unbelievable World Cup knockout clash between Portugal and Holland ended with Luiz Felipe Scolari barring the way for England and a spot in the semi-finals for the third major tournament running.
Just as in Shizuoka at the 2002 World Cup and Lisbon in Euro 2004, Scolari and
Sven-Goran Eriksson will go head to head at the quarter-final stage, with the
Swede desperately hoping it will be third time lucky.
And for once, fortune already appears to be smiling on Eriksson as Portugal
will be deprived of Costinha and, much more crucially, chief playmaker Deco
after the pair were dismissed in a stormy affair as both sides finished with
A game containing everything good in the game, and plenty of the bad, was
settled by Maniche's first-half strike. By the time it ended, under-pressure
Russian referee Valentin Ivanov had produced an incredible 16 yellow cards -
equalling the all-time tournament record - plus four reds and been forced to
intervene in countless minor skirmishes which did little to foster the spirit of
friendship FIFA are so keen to promote.
And, through it all, Ruud van Nistelrooy remained on the bench, axed now by
his country as well as his club, with his future looking distinctly uncertain.
So closely matched were these two sides on paper and so enthralling - England
apart - has this World Cup been, it could have been anticipated there would be
no lack of incident.
Van Nistelrooy's omission provided the first talking point an hour before
Having dumped Edgar Davids, Clarence Seedorf, Patrick Kluivert and Roy Makaay
from his squad altogether, Van Basten has already shown himself to be no
respecter of reputations and Van Nistelrooy was paying the price for a series of
indifferent performances in Germany which were highlighted in public by his
coach earlier this week.
Van Nistelrooy's absence cost him an anticipated match-up with Manchester
United team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo, the man with whom a training ground bust-up
is said to have led to his Old Trafford exile.
Not that Ronaldo lasted long, 34 minutes to be precise.
Marc van Bommel had already been cautioned for chopping down the winger when
Khalid Boulahrouz caught him with a vicious high tackle which warranted more
than the yellow card it received.
The deep gash to Ronaldo's thigh proved his agonised expression was no
over-exaggeration and although he made his way to the touchline for treatment on
two separate occasions, he eventually left the field for good in streams of
Fortunately for Portugal, the 21-year-old had already made a positive
contribution, darting between Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Wesley Sneijder to
seize possession before releasing Deco with an inspired pass.
The Barcelona man quickly crossed low, allowing Pauleta to lay a pass off to
Maniche. No longer wanted by Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, the midfielder skipped
inside Andre Ooijer and beat Edwin van der Sar with an impressive finish.
Ronaldo was not alone in being on the wrong end of crude tackles. Arjen
Robben's shoulder was the point of impact when Nuno Valente flew in to make a
high, studs-first challenge.
But it was Portugal who carried the greater attacking threat and the tie would
surely have been sealed had Van der Sar not saved instinctively with his legs
when Pauleta turned on to Simao's cross.
The value of the stop was heightened still further seconds later when Costinha
ridiculously stuck his arm out to intercept a pass bound for Van Persie. Having
already been booked, a red card was automatic.
A flurry of activity around the Portugal goal at the start of the second half
saw Phillip Cocu smash a shot against the underside of the bar and Ricardo
unconvincingly shovel a Van Bommel shot round the post.
Then, with the crime count mounting rapidly, Luis Figo was fortunate to escape
with a caution when he shoved his head - albeit with minor contact - into Van
Figo was also involved in the next incident, the one which sparked a mass
confrontation between both sets of players by the dug-outs as he went down after
being caught in the face by Boulahrouz's arm, prompting under-pressure referee
Ivanov to produce another red card.
Deco swiftly followed, booked twice in five minutes as chaos reigned, with Van
Bronckhorst also departing early in stoppage time.
Amid the carnage, Portugal's remaining nine players, marshalled by the
outstanding Ricardo Carvalho, somehow survived, although in the end they were
indebted to keeper Ricardo, who brilliantly denied Dirk Kuyt after Van
Nistelrooy's replacement had been put clean through.