Plumbing farcical depths

Portugal's Maniche (second from left) is cheered by his teammates Deco (right) and Pauleta.-AP Portugal's Maniche (second from left) is cheered by his teammates Deco (right) and Pauleta.

The match will be most remembered for four players being sent off, eight others booked and tempers boiling over both on and off the pitch, writes Nicholas Rigillo.

Portugal beat the Netherlands 1-0 in Nuremburg to enter the quarterfinals of the World Cup, but the match will be most remembered for four players being sent off, eight others booked and tempers boiling over both on and off the pitch.

Maniche's fine 23rd-minute strike proved to be the only goal of the game but as tempers frayed on a hot humid night, referee Valentin Ivanov lost control. The 16 yellow cards, and the four reds that resulted — Costinha and Deco for Portugal and Khalid Boulahrouz and Giovanni van Bronckhorst for the Dutch — established a new record for a World Cup match. They also spoiled what had been an open game right up until when Costinha was shown the red card in first-half injury time. The coaching staff of both teams also got involved in unsightly scuffles on the sidelines as the game descended almost into a farce.

Ivanov brandished his card twice in the first seven minutes — both for fouls on Cristiano Ronaldo — and that set the tone for the evening.

"I don't think it was a violent game," Maniche said. "The referee didn't contribute to making this a good football match, with the good football we were giving.

"But I think we deserved to win. We are a great group, talented players and friends as well."

Portugal defender Costinha was the first to go, sent off for a second booking just before half-time. Boulahrouz evened the numbers when he saw red after a second booking for a foul on Luis Figo just after the hour.

"I tried to get the ball, he hit me in the face and I think he deserved the red card," Figo said.

Deco then made it 10-9 to the Dutch when he lost his head to be booked twice in five minutes (73rd and 78th) while Ivanov gave Van Bronckhorst his marching orders in injury time, also for a second booking.

None of this seemed likely to happen when the match began in front of a capacity crowd of 41,000, dominated by Dutch fans decked out in their traditional orange. Coach Marco van Basten dropped striker Ruud van Nistelrooy to the substitutes' bench but if anything, the Dutch began the brighter of the two sides.

Marc van Bommel pulled an early chance just wide while Robin van Persie also gave Ricardo an anxious moment with an early shot just the wrong side of the post.

Van Bommel and Boulahrouz were then booked for fouls on Ronaldo and the Manchester United winger's movement was clearly affected.

In the 23rd minute, however, Ronaldo spun out of a tackle on the right and fed Deco. His pinpoint cross was perfectly laid off by Pauleta to Maniche and the former Chelsea player made space and smashed the ball past Edwin van der Sar.

Ronaldo then had to go off 12 minutes before the break, bursting into tears as he was forced to leave the field, to be replaced by Simao.

Van Persie then had a great chance to equalise in the 37th minute but after making space brilliantly, he skewed a left-foot shot just wide.

Wesley Sneijder fired over from a free kick on the edge of the box just before the break and at the other end, Van der Sar produced an instinctive save with his feet to prevent Pauleta doubling Portugal's lead.

Portugal then suffered a huge blow on the stroke of half-time when Costinha was sent off for a second bookable offence, a deliberate hand-ball.

Coach Scolari sacrificed Pauleta at the break, bringing on the more defensive Petit, pushing Luis Figo and Simao up front.

Phillip Cocu was unlucky not to equalise when his shot rebounded off the crossbar while goalkeeper Ricardo made a hash of a shot from Van Bommel and was lucky to see it drift wide. Figo tested Van der Sar but most of the attacking intent came from the Dutch as the 10 men were pulled around the field. Sneijder forced Ricardo into a good save and then Figo was lucky not to be sent off after a head-butt on Van Bommel.

A free kick from Simao was just too high but then the match turned again as Boulahrouz was sent off for a second booking after catching Figo in the face with his arm.

A fabulous block from Ricardo Carvalho prevented a goal-bound shot from Sneijder. Carvalho was injured making the block and tempers boiled over again as Holland failed to return the ball from the resultant drop-ball. Deco was booked immediately for a reckless challenge on Johnny Heitinga and after a brief melee, Wesley Sneijder was booked for pushing Petit to the ground. Deco then compounded his rashness by foolishly preventing Holland from taking a quick free kick and was sent off.

As the minutes ticked down, Holland poured forward in search of an equaliser and Dirk Kuyt was denied by a brave save from Ricardo.

Sneijder flashed a shot over but though six minutes of injury time were added on, the Dutch could not find the equaliser with Van Bronckhorst also sent off for a second yellow.

DPA