Portugal send Spain crashing out
By Richard Jolly
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Portugal saw off Spain's challenge to host Euro 2004 and now beat their neighbours to end their participation in the tournament.
Nuno Gomes came off the bench to score the goal which completed the hosts' comeback after defeat to Greece and ensured Spain will not shed their tag as perennial underachievers for at least another two years.
Introduced for the ineffective Pauleta, Portugal's Euro 2000 star met Luis Figo's pass, swivelled and found the bottom corner of the Spanish net from 25 yards.
Spain, with no shortage of talent in their ranks, were left to lament a series of second-half misses but the continuing indifference of Raul and a reluctance to use Juan Carlos Valeron and Fernando Morientes were also factors in their latest failure.
For Portugal, much changed after their opening defeat, it was another Luiz Felipe Scolari switch which proved decisive after an unpromising first half.
Each side was buoyed by the inclusion of prodigious young talents. Fernando Torres and Cristiano Ronaldo, otherwise their teams' most potent attacking threats in the first 45 minutes, wastefully headed over at the end of the half. The Spaniard's chance came from a Xabi Alonso corner while Figo's cross lured Iker Casillas off his line. Ronaldo reached the ball first and missed the unguarded goal.
Ronaldo's quick footwork had proved too much for Raul Bravo but, infuriatingly, his crosses continued to evade his team-mates. But with Spain's left back occupied by Ronaldo, the ebulliant Miguel joined the Portugal attack and lashed a shot that brought a flying save from Casillas.
The pace and assurance in the tackle of Jorge Andrade twice denied the sharp Torres; a more out-of-sorts Raul was betrayed by a poor first touch when found by Vicente and slow to react to the inventive winger's low cross.
And when Vicente's slide-rule pass found Torres, the sliding Ricardo came out quickly to clear, and only Ivan Helguera, forward for a corner, mustered a shot in the first half.
Then Scolari sacrificed Pauleta for Nuno Gomes. The Benfica man justified the decision within 12 minutes, but Portugal had a nervy final half-hour to withstand.
And Spain's strike duo spurned superb opportunities to score the equaliser which would have guaranteed a quarter final spot. First Raul met a Vicente cross and, with keeper Ricardo flapping, the Spain captain's header was hideously misjudged.
Then Xabi Alonso's pass split the Portuguese defence open, the alert Fernando Torres met it and rifled his shot against a relieved Ricardo's post.
The acrobatic Casillas prevented Portugal from extending their lead as he tipped away Figo's free kick and blocked Costinha's header. And then Spain resumed their offensive. The substitute Albert Luque lobbed Ricardo but not Ricardo Carvalho, Juanito's header glanced off the Portugal bar and Vicente's half-volley flashed across goal and wide.
But as Spain pushed for an equaliser, Portugal should have killed the game off. The unmarked Costinha headed wide, Maniche rounded Casillas and had his shot cleared off the line by Raul Bravo and Nuno Gomes failed to double his tally.
It mattered not because, if everybody needs good neighbours, Portugal were too good for theirs.