Coehlo's men happy to ride their luck

 

Even the amiable Portuguese coach, Humberto Coelho, must be a little bewildered by it all at this stage. Getting drawn against three mediocre sides at various points on the wrong side of the hill must have seemed like enough luck for any manager in a major finals tournament.

But on Saturday evening in Amsterdam they not only had the added good fortune to come up against the weakest side still in the tournament at the quarter-final stage, they had a little help from the referee against a Turkish side that were having an off day.

All of which would suggest a bigger winning margin than the two-goal victory Coelho's side achieved, and had the Portuguese a striker of the quality of Patrick Kluivert then it's safe to assume that the goals would have flowed.

Instead, what the Portuguese have in the form of Luis Figo is possibly the finest creative talent in the game just now, and so the scoring chances came thick and fast. As he created them, though, a whole range of the Barcelona player's international team-mates made a bags of putting them away.

Even Nuno Gomes, who got both of the game's goals, had a poor enough afternoon overall, and his coach finally grew tired of his successive misses with 15 minutes remaining and replaced him with the more experienced but currently less effective Sa Pinto.

The goals aside, the game was effectively decided just short of the half hour when Alpay Ozalan was dismissed by referee Dick Jol for what was supposed to have been a punch thrown at Jorge Costa. In fact, replays of the incident showed that the Turk never hit his opponent who was instead kneed in the face by a retreating team-mate. But the Dutch official saw it differently and so the 27-year-old walked.

Without him, coach Mustafa Denizli looked to pull his wing backs into a flat back four and more or less abandoned any serious attempt at attacking play in the hope that his side could at least get through to half-time.

Had they succeeded we might have had an interesting enough second half on our hands, but right on the stroke of the 45th minute Figo's first appearance of the game on his preferred right flank led to the Portuguese breakthrough, his perfectly weighted cross finding Nuno Gomes who did well to get in front of Fatih Alpay before heading home well from 10 yards out.

Three minutes into injury time the Turks might have been level when Arif Erdem got the benefit of the doubt from Jol when he went down after being tackled by Fernando Couto in the area. Arif picked himself up to take the spot kick but took it poorly and Vitor Baia saved first it and then the follow-up from Hakan Sukur.

From then the whole thing became embarrassingly one-sided, with Figo completely destroying a team which simply couldn't find a way to get the ball into the sort of advanced wide positions from which Hakan Sukur might be usefully supplied.

With no real sense of any competitive edge to the game it was disappointing stuff, although we were at least treated to an outstanding goal early in the second period.

Dimas started the move when he skipped between two of three Turks who had attempted to close him down inside his half, and after the ball was moved crossfield Figo weaved his way through another couple before setting up the 23-year-old Gomes with a tap-in at the far post for his second.

"Sometimes it goes like that," said Coelho with a shrug. "Maybe next time we'll score more from fewer chances."

His opposite number, Denizli, was dignified in defeat. "To get to this stage of this tournament is, for us, a great achievement and we will learn a lot from our experiences of the past couple of weeks."

For Coelho and his men, meanwhile, the goal now is to get to the final, and though they might not be favourites for the Wednesday night's game in Brussels they won't be complaining. After all, if it weren't for that magical run of luck they're enjoying, it might have been Kluivert and company a day later back here in the Arena. No wonder the coach left smiling.

Substitutes: Portugal - Paulo Sousa for Costinha (halftime), Sa Pinto for Nuno Gomes (74 mins), Capucho for Rui Costa (87 mins). Turkey - Suat for Arif and Oktay for Okan (62 mins), Sergen for Ogun (84 mins).