I’ve been complaining throughout the World Cup about the vanishing forward — i.e., the fact that many teams have elected to play with only one true strker. Portugal has been a prime offender. Despite all of the brilliant flicks and touches of Christiano Ronaldo, Luis Figo, Deco, and others, they have produced few goals (including none against England even playing with an extra man) because, in my opinion, they play with a lone front-man (the not very effective Pauleta).
In today’s semi-final against France, Portugal took the madness one step further. Trailing 1-0 in the 67th minute, Portugal pulled lone-striker Pauleta and replaced him with a winger. Actually, Portugal had “vanished” their forward once before, but that was only after they had been reduced by the ref to nine men and were protecting a 1-0 against Holland.
Today, the experiment lasted for only seven minutes, after which Portugal brought on a forward with their last substitution. And at the very end of the match, they pushed a centerback (Meira) into the box. In fact, a great opportunity fell to their centerback/forward in stoppage time, but he put his shot into row W, as centerbacks tend to do.
After the match, Portugal’s highly successful coach “Big Phil” Scolari called France’s 1-0 victory “deserved.” So was Portugal’s 0-1 defeat.