A Victory, Sure, but Was It Art?
The second-guessers were out in force around the world Thursday in the wake of Wednesday’s qualifying matches for the 2004 European Championship and the 2006 World Cup.
Nowhere were the comments more acidic than in Brazil, where media unhappiness over the world champions’ less-than-scintillating 1-0 victory over Ecuador in the Amazon city of Manaus was widespread.
“Where was the show?” asked Lance, a Rio de Janeiro sports daily.
“There was no fun, no art and no spectacle,” complained the O Globo newspaper.
Brazil, unbeaten two games into its 18-match South American qualifying marathon for Germany 2006, won on a goal by Ronaldinho. Teammate Roberto Carlos, who provided the decisive pass, said Ecuador’s players were to blame for the game’s lack of sparkle.
“They stayed back for the whole 90 minutes,” he said. “They only had one [scoring] chance and made the game dull. The supporters don’t like that sort of thing.”
With Colombia’s World Cup qualifying campaign off to an inauspicious start after a 2-1 home loss to Brazil and an even more humiliating 4-0 away loss to Bolivia, fans already are calling for the ouster of Coach Francisco Maturana.
But Oscar Astudillo, president of the Colombian soccer federation, Thursday gave Maturana his support.
“It was a very unfortunate performance, but as far as I’m concerned it doesn’t seem very sensible to change direction in a competition that’s only just starting,” he told reporters in Bogota.
Said Maturana: “I’m completely open to criticism, I respect criticism, but the critics should know that I’m strong, I’ll always be strong.... We admit we’re going through a bad patch, but we’re committed to carrying on.”
Scots Cry Foul
Scottish internationals Christian Dailly and James McFadden have branded German players as “cheats” in the wake of Germany’s 2-1 victory over Scotland in a key Euro 2004 qualifying game in Dortmund.
Dailly said German players were diving whenever they were tackled, seeking to draw fouls.
“Until someone clamps down on it, it will keep happening,” he said. “The Scotland players are honest and we take pride in that.”
Added McFadden: “They were cheating.... They weren’t slow at putting the boot in but, as soon as it went against them, they went down as if they’d broken their leg.”
Berti Vogts, Scotland’s German coach, said the players’ comments were made in the heat of the moment and should not be taken seriously.
The Netherlands’ 3-1 loss to the Czech Republic in Prague put the Czechs into Euro 2004 and forced the Dutch into a playoff. That did not sit well in Amsterdam.
“Davids’ Stupid Red Sinks Orange,” blared the headline in De Telegraaf newspaper, referring to the early red card earned by midfielder Edgar Davids that forced the Dutch to play a man down for most of the game.
“It is becoming increasingly clear that the current team is on its last legs,” De Telegraaf said.
The Netherlands, having failed to reach the 2002 World Cup, now faces a potentially troublesome two-game playoff series.
Scorn in Israel
Israel Coach Avraham Grant was the target of media scorn in the wake of a 2-2 tie with minnow Malta.
“Grant yesterday sullied his professional reputation with one of the worst humiliations in the annals of Israeli football,” declared the tabloid Maariv. “In the most critical week, he failed totally.”
Replied Grant: “There is a lot to correct.... But what did people think, that it would all fix itself with hocus pocus?”
Times wire services contributed to this report.