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Portugal and France advance, but not without controversy

Published: November 20, 2009
Section: Sports


Portugal played last Wednesday against Bosnia-Herzegovina, and won 1-0 in Bosnia. In order to get to Wednesday’s match, they had a difficult journey. The team was originally predicted to win its qualifying group, but then they had a string of losses that pushed the team back to 17th in FIFA’s world rankings. Portugal then responded with five wins in a row to get them to the World Cup.

Portugal Coach Carlos Queiroz thought his team played better on the road, and they helped prove that fact on Wednesday. Portugal almost scored in the 25th minute when midfielders Juventus’ Tiago and Raul Meireles forced Bosnian goalkeeper Kenen Hasagic to make a full-stretch save. T was not until the 56th minute that Miereles was able to get the ball past Hasagic with help from Nani and Liedson. Portugal’s defense was also strong, and Portuguese goalkeeper Eduardo kept up his string of solid play. In eight matches Eduardo had only given up two goals.

Also impressive was that the most famous player, Cristiano Ronaldo, was not in the lineup. The Real Madrid star did not score in entire campaign and sat out of the last game because of an ankle injury. There was worry that the team would not be able to perform and win without the help from Ronaldo, but it was not a problem.

Portugal has not missed a major international contest in the past 10 years, but they have yet to win any medals. They still have a long way to go and need some solid payers–like a reliable defender for the left-back position, and need to become more consistent. This is a team that is very flashy, but it is not always able to put that flash into goals and wins. They have a while to fix any problems, and hopefully this will be a team that is able to perform and make their country proud.

On the same day as Portugal’s victory, France, Greece, Uruguay, Algeria, and Slovenia earned a berth for the World Cup. Wednesday was the last day for qualifications, and the world now knows the 32 that will compete next summer. The World Cup will be played next June and July in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Also on Wednesday, France triumphed over Ireland in a controversial win. French player Thierry Henry has admitted to handling the ball with his hands in the process of setting up William Gallas who then scored to even the score at one apiece; after that goal France went on to win in extra time. Henry claims that the fault lies with the referee, and it is not Henry’s responsibility. On BBC Radio Five Live Henry said, “It was a handball, but I’m not the ref. The ball hit my arm, fell in front of me and I played it. The referee allowed it. That’s a question you should ask him.”

In response to France’s win the Football Association of Ireland, the FAI, has made a complaint to FIFA asking that the game should be replayed. This has been done in the past: in 2006 Uzbekistan had to replay Bahrain for a spot in the World Cup in Germany because a referee mistaken awarded Bahrain a indirect free-kick when not appropriate. The difference is that the ref incorrectly applied the rules as opposed to missing a call in the France Ireland case. FIFA has confirmed that they received the request and will be looking into the play.