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Portugal, who needed a win to stay in the tournament, defeated Spain 1-0 in a tense encounter in Lisbon. The result combined with events in Faro where Russia overcame Greece, means that Spain have been eliminated.

In an often scrappy but always absorbing match, Portugal who showed more endeavour throughout, fully deserved their victory. For Spain, Euro 2004 represents the latest sorry chapter in their ongoing quest to have an impact at the finals of a major tournament. Once again, they were found wanting.

The early pressure came from Portugal and with Ronaldo and Figo causing havoc on both flanks, the hosts forced a succession of free-kicks and corners.
Miguel produced the first real shot of the half but his effort was parried away by Casillas.

Spain, who only required a draw to go through, were content to play on the break. On a couple of occasions Raul combined well with Torres, but despite coach Inaki Saez’s pre-match prediction that his players would go for the win, Spain played like a team determined to avoid defeat.

Nonetheless, after weathering the early storm, the best chance of the opening period fell to Spain but Torres headed over from close range.

A minute later, Portugal had a wonderful opportunity to take the lead when Luis Figo found Ronaldo in the penalty area, but the Manchester United winger glanced his header wide.

Luiz Felipe Scolari introduced Nuno Gomes for the ineffective Pauletta at half time.

Initially, the substitution made little difference to the pattern of the game, with Spain defending comfortably.

However, 12 minutes into the half, the change looked inspired as Nuno Gomes combined with Figo, before swivelling on the edge of the penalty area and firing a low shot beyond Casillas and into the far corner.

Within two minutes, Spain had an opportunity to level the scores, when Vicente found Raul, but the Spanish striker, who brought his miserable club form into the tournament, could get no power with his header.

Three minutes later Torres was put through by Abelda but the Atletico Madrid striker could only look on in anguish as his shot came back off the post. That was as close as it was to get for Spain.

Indeed, at the other end, Portugal taking advantage of some lax defending, had several opportunities to extend their lead. Twice Costinha had free headers but could not find the target, while Nuno Gomes could have added a second but his effort was smothered by Casillas.

The best chance though fell to Maniche, who bust through, rounded the keeper, only to see his goal bound shout cleared off the line by Raul Bravo.

It was perhaps symptomatic of Spain’s performance that they should spend the last few minutes defending their own goal, when they should have been playing at the other end.

Questions will inevitably be asked of the selection of Saez. Morientes, who scored in the previous game, only appeared with ten minutes remaining, while Valeron, arguably Spain’s most creative player, remained on the bench throughout. Indeed, when Spain were crying out for a creative input, Saez opted to bring on the holding midfielder Baraja.

So once again, a wonderfully talented group of footballers, fail to perform on the biggest stage.

For the hosts, the shock of the opening day defeat to Greece, has now been forgotten. They top the group and on this performance, they look a match for most teams. They lack a cutting edge but with home support behind them, they have begun to play with a passion and emotion that on tonight’s evidence, will prove difficult to counter.

Group A

Portugal 1-0 Spain

Scorers:

– Portugal Nuno Gomes 57
Halftime: 0-0

Teams:

Portugal:1-Ricardo; 13-Miguel, 4-Jorge Andrade, 16-Ricardo Carvalho, 14-Nuno Valente; 18-Maniche, 6-Costinha, 7-Luis Figo (8-Armando Petit 78), 20-Deco, 17-Cristiano Ronaldo (5-Fernando Couto 85); 9-Pauleta (21-Nuno Gomes 46)

Spain: 23-Iker Casillas; 5-Carles Puyol, 22-Juanito (10-Fernando Morientes 80), 6-Ivan Helguera, 15-Raul Bravo; 19-Joaquin (11-Albert Luque 72), 4-David Albelda (8-Ruben Baraja 66), 16-Xabi Alonso, 14-Vicente; 9-Fernando Torres, 7-Raul

Referee: Anders Frisk (Sweden)

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