After the entertainment provided by the first semi-final, it was little surprise that last night’s match could not live up to those standards. Having got this far by conning referees, whinging incessantly and being generally the least likeable team in the competition, Portugal’s campaign came crashing down around their ears in a crescendo of jeers and unseemly behaviour. Ricardo Carvalho having been the victim on Saturday turned villain last night, bringing down Thierry Henry in the area for the penalty that was the only goal of the game. Having bragged beforehand that he knew where the taker would put the penalty before it was taken, Ricardo proved that it was no idle boast, narrowly failing to stop Zidane’s spotkick. Thereafter the match faded out, with little to speak of in the way of chances for the remaining seventy minutes.
For one who has been berated in the English media for his ungentlemenly conduct following Rooney’s dismissal, Cristiano Ronaldo appears to have learnt little or nothing from that episode. A deserved reputation for “exaggerating” any physical contact by an opponent was enhanced further with his theatrics shortly after the French penalty. When attempting to meet a cross from the right, he threw himself at the ball, performed a little hitchkick in mid-air and jerked his head wildly to try to con the referee into thinking he had been impeded by a French defender. The referee to his credit was having none of it and let play continue. However, the credit is taken away as he did not caution the chinless wonder for his theatrics.
For France, a number of players were treading on eggshells for a caution could have kept them out of the final. Henry and Vieira fortunately escaped missing Sundays match but inexplicably Louis Saha got himself booked less five minutes after replacing Henry in a replay of his booking against Brazil. At the end, Scholari’s undefeated World Cup record went to the wall and he reacted with all the petulance of a six year old whose favourite toy has been taken away. Quite what view FIFA will take of his verbal assault on the referee is unknown but it is a poor reflection on him. It is one thing to be passionate, quite another to be a bully.