Peter Young
29 April 2001
England Football Online
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Comment: The Media Hall of Shame

  Despite their occasional use of the editorial "we," they do not necessarily represent the views of the other authors of this website.
 

 The advent of the home computer and the Internet not only means that the traditional media have lost their stranglehold over mass communication but also that what appears in them is subject to instant recall and scrutiny at any time.  In the spirit of this new age, the Media Hall of Shame welcomes nominations from readers.  Their subject must be the England team or at least international football and their content words the author surely later regretted having written or said—“famous last words,” if you will.

 Media Hall of Shame Award No. 1  
The News of the World via Graeme Souness advises Kevin Keegan on what to expect from Portugal

Our first honouree is the News of the World for its advice to England manager Kevin Keegan on what to expect just ahead of England’s Euro 2000 match against Portugal.  The News of the World called on former Liverpool player and manager and Scotland international Graeme Souness, whose managerial stint at Benfica in Portugal evidently qualified him as an expert on Portuguese football.  There may be those who would question advice from a Scot for England’s national team, particularly a Scot named Graeme Souness, but the News of the World is not among them.  Keegan either took the advice or independently reached the same conclusions as Souness in another example of minds of equivalent ability thinking alike.  The consequences are known to all of us.  

In fairness to the rest of the English football media, it should be said most of them shared Souness's views on Portugal or views like them and probably deserve some sort of honourable mention here, but none of them quite managed to be flatly wrong as many times per column inch as the exquisite piece of rubbish appearing in the News of the World.  Their consolation is that their turn will surely come.

Here, then, are the award-winning excerpts from “EURO 2000:  PORTUGAL ARE A BUNCH OF WIMPS” by Graeme Souness, which appeared in the News of the World on June 11, 2000:

 “If you go back two years when Portugal came to Wembley, England won 3-0. In that game Portugal had most of the possession but when England scored their second they were left chasing.

"Portugal are a typical Latin team - neat and tidy. They huff and puff a lot but they don't cause much damage. They play a lot in areas where they can't hurt you."

"They keep the ball from their box up until halfway into your own half, but in the final third of the pitch their problems really start to show. Historically, ever since the days of Eusebio, they've never had anyone capable of scoring goals at international level.

"When I went to Benfica I had about 40 players on my books and a dozen of them wanted to play in the striking role just behind the front two.

"It's like that everywhere in Portugal. Because of that they are limited to the way they can play.

"Rui Costa can only play in that position for the national team. So they end up playing with three defenders, two wing-backs and Costa playing in the 'no responsibility' hole up front.

"If you ask me that is a cheating position - it's a position of no responsibility, no running back and no tackling. They all want to play as the second striker. There is no one who wants to take the responsibility of saying: 'I'm your goalscorer, give me the ball and I'll put it in the back of the net'.

"Of course they have some quality players. There is Barcelona's Luis Figo, Fiorentina's Costa and Real Sociedad's Ricardo Sa Pinto.  And there's Joao Pinto, who was under my command at Benfica. But Pinto is not a goal threat, he plays in areas that are easy to defend.

"He's not really a goal supplier, either. He's very much an individual who catches your eye because he's got a trick, but the end product is nowhere near enough.

"Nuno Gomes was another player with me at Benfica who has a gift for scoring goals in the Portuguese League. But I doubt his ability to transform that knack to international level.

"At Benfica he is often in the right place at the right time to score, but he's not very brave. Tony Adams will frighten him back to the halfway line."

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In case you've forgotten, Portugal--"left chasing" after England took a two-goal lead--went on to "huff and puff a lot" in "areas where they can't hurt you" to win 3-2.  

For the first time in five years an opponent scored more than two goals against England, a feat accomplished by a team that had "never had anyone capable of scoring goals at international level."  Portugal's goals were scored by three different players on a team that had "no one who wants to take the responsibility of saying: 'I'm your goalscorer, give me the ball and I'll put it in the back of the net.'" 

Their first goal came from Figo's long-range shot, taken from an area "where they can't hurt you," their second from Joao Pinto, who was "not a goal threat," and their third from a courageous short-range effort, taken as Tony Adams lunged in, by Nuno Gomes, whose international goalscoring ability was doubtful and whom Adams would  frighten "back to the halfway line" because he was "not very brave."  

We could go on at length, but suffice it to say it was England's defence that was "frightened back," continually retreating in bewilderment from Portuguese play in "areas where they can't hurt you," and it was Portuguese play in "areas where they can't hurt you" that led to all three Portugal goals.