Sunday, June 11, 2006

Portugal 1 Angola 0

I couldn't help the feeling that Portugal's win over Angola was a microcosm of the team in general. Follow me here:

A mere four minutes in, Luis Figo made a devastating solo run through the Angolan defense before cleverly setting up Pedro Pauleta for an easy finish. Just like that it was 1-0 and you instantly began thinking it was going to be a glorious day for the Portuguese. So much was promised right from the get go.

Instead, they sort of fizzled out from there and, in the end, did just enough to hold off Angola for the rest of the night. Ho hum. Now, this is where the comparison comes in. Figo and Pauleta are both 33. They're old, crafty veterans now, but when they first began appearing for Portugal on the national stage all those years ago, they took the world by storm and the world was certain that big things were on the horizon for Portugal, which was supposedly the team of the future. They were dubbed the Golden Generation and all sorts of international glory was to be theirs. It was inevitable. A grand Portuguese future was predicted and expected, but instead...

...they've provided years of disappointment. Figo and Portugal have long been classic underachievers.

Well, maybe today was that same story but packed into ninety short minutes. Just like when they were youngsters, Figo and Pauleta came out and instantly showed why they can be so great, but when it was all said and done, you just sort of shrugged your shoulders and said, "Eh...decent, I suppose, but nothing special."

That's not to take anything away from Angola, which easily could have crumbled after Pauleta's strike only four minutes in. I mean, for an unknown African nation playing on the big stage for the first time, their big entrance couldn't have gone any worse, right? They couldn't even hold off Portugal for more than four minutes. Ouch. All of a sudden, the only questions were how many goals they would concede and how the hell they beat out Nigeria in their qualifying group. Inexplicable.

But Angola never panicked. They never really threatened either, but hey hung around admirably and the hint of an equalizer wasn't completely out of the question, though always unlikely. You could tell they were simply outclassed late in the game when their central defender insisted on simply blasting the ball as far as he could and pretty much conceding possession time and again. If you were pulling for an Angolan equalizer, it was maddening. They were clearly gassed and out of ideas at that point, but they were far from humiliated, as was widely feared they would be. Unless you count hair. I can't find a good photo of it, but Manuel Loco's choice of hair style must have been embarrassing. But then, what else would you expect from a dude named Loco?

All in all, it was a nice effort for a country that was once a colony of Portugal and had lost 6-0 and 5-1 in their previous two meetings. (Humorously, the latter game was suspended after Angola had four players ejected. Think there was some bad blood in that one? Good lord. Were they armed?)

Christiano Ronaldo, as talented as he is, continues to be a petulant twat at times. Most of the time, actually. I think he may be physically incapable of refraining from making a constipated face every time an opponent dares breathe in his direction. Naturally, when he was subbed out he sat on the sideline sulking, clealry upset with Luiz Felipe Scolari's decision to remove him. I guess it never dawned on him that he already had a yellow card and Scolari may have been protecting hime from picking up a second and the ensuing suspension.

Incidentally, where was Deco? I guess I haven't been scouring the Portguese newswire thoroughly enough because if he's injured, I haven't heard. In fact, I know I haven't heard because I had Deco starting on a fantasy team and he didn't even make an appearance for me. Fuck. I could have sworn I just saw him playing for Barcelona against Arsenal in the Champions League final less than a month ago. And now he's not good enough to face Angola? Oh, well. What do I know?

As usual, Portugal looked just good enough to make you believe they just might beat anyone on a given day, but just bad enough to convince you that, ultimately, they won't do shit.

This little Angolan fan looks happy in this photo, but I hear he was so pissed after the loss.


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