June 25, 2004

What a spectacle. What an atmosphere. What a match.

Portugal 2 England 2 (Portugal win 6-5 on penalties)

I haven't been staying up till 2:45am to catch the recent matches on cable but I'm glad I made an exception for this one. It was breathtaking, thrilling and exciting to say the least. England took the lead through a marvellous finish by Michael Owen who incidentally, finally ended his goal drought but it was this man who broke English hearts right at the death.

Helder Postiga! What a cross from Simao, what a cheeky header, what shrewd substitutions by Scolari.

Extra-time was no let-down either what with a cracker of a goal coming from Manuel Rui Costa before Frank Lampard seemed to have given England something to cheer about.

Finally, it came down to penalties and I've said it before and I'll say it again. No one deserves to go out of a tournament on penalties. It's far too cruel, far too decisive and definitely much too dampening. But of course, someone had to win and it was definitely a test of nerve. Sitting back in my chair, I could almost feel the tension running through each penalty taker's head as he prepared to deliver the goods to an expectant crowd. How DO they manage to keep their cool in such a fiery situation? Only God knows. The penalties were tied at 5-5 when Portuguese goalkeeper Ricardo saved Darius Vassell's weak spotkick and stepped up to slam the ball past his counterpart David James to send Portugal into raptures and onto the semi-finals.

Thank you England and Portugal for giving the neutral observers a true spectacle of a soccer match.

Traveller fell apart at 2:35 PM

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