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Sunday, 30 December 2012 00:05

That was the year that was: ten of the best Portuguese football memories of 2012

“Marca Ronaldo! Por favor Ronaldo! Obrigado Ronaldo!”

ronaldo-goal-czech-republic-20120621.jpgThe Portuguese football year threw up more than its usual share of fantastic feats, enduring memories and moments of madness. Here are ten of the best compiled by Tom Kundert.

1. The pulsating decider – Porto’s triumph in capital (02/03/12)
Portocelebsclassico.gifThe Estádio da Luz. 2 March 2011. Benfica vs. FC Porto. Effectively a title decider. Porto’s strong start is rewarded with a belting Hulk goal. Benfica roar back and a Cardozo brace puts the Eagles 2-1 up. Porto coach Vítor Pereira makes a decision. On goes James, who had stepped off a plane from South America only hours earlier. To accommodate the Colombian, Rolando is hauled off, Sapunaru switched to the centre and left winger Djalma instructed to drop to right-back. The audacious plan works. Porto wrest back control of the game. James equalises. Maicon scores a late winner and the Dragons have all three points. The enraged Benfica delegation vents its fury over Maicon’s winner being marginally offside.

Was this match won due to skill or skulduggery? The 25-year debate rages on. But what a game…
2. The team – Selecção at Euro 2012 (June 2012)
portugal-holland-line-up-20120617.jpgFor one month in Ukraine the Portuguese national team showed all the qualities that have been conspicuous by their absence before and after in 2012. Cohesion, confidence, individual and collective brilliance, a never-say-die attitude. The result? Qualification from the Group of Death against all predictions, progress to the semi-finals and a penalty shoot-out defeat after giving as good as they got against eventual winners and World Cup holders Spain. As has happened so often in the past 15 years, Portugal exceeded expectations at a major tournament, departing only after fabricating a host of golden memories for their millions of fans all around the world.
3. The embarrassment – Leiria’s eight-player team (29/04/12)
leiria-line-up-v-feirense-20120429.jpgPortuguese football’s financial malaise was starkly brought into focus for the whole world to see at the end of April. União de Leiria’s multiple broken promises to pay their squad members overdue wages came to a head, and the club was able to field just eight players in the home fixture against Feirense. The team photo was soon being circulated around the globe, as was the story that club president João Bartolomeu had accused one of the disaffected players, Keita, of stealing a suitcase containing six thousand euros in cash which he had brought to the ground to pay match expenses. It would have been comical if it was not so tragic.

4. The save – Quim miraculously claws out Hulk’s shot (07/04/12)
There are saves that you have to watch several times over to understand how the goalkeeper prevented the ball from entering the net. Then there are saves that no matter how many times you watch, you still don’t know how the keeper managed it. As is the case of this cat-like stop from Braga veteran Quim to prevent a spectacular Hulk goal. Not bad for a 36-year-old.
5. The ignominy – Bojinov (19/01/12)
bojinov-matias-20120120.jpgTensions were running high at the Alvalade. In the midst of a poor run of form, coach Domingos Paciência had preceded the Taça da Liga match against Moreirense with a tetchy press conference, where he had insinuated that perhaps Sporting’s biggest problems were caused from within. A turgid match ensued but with the score at 1-1, a last-minute penalty gave the Lions a lifeline.

Designated penalty taker Matias Fernandez stepped up to take it, only for Valeri Bojinov, who had done nothing to endear himself to the Sporting faithful in his six months at the club, to shove the Chilean out of the way. It needed intervention from Stijn Schaars to prevent matters from getting out of hand, all played out before the disbelieving eyes of Domingos. Bojinov missed. The incandescent fans let their feelings towards the Bulgarian be known. He never played for the club again.

6. The goal – Ronaldo silences the Camp Nou (21/04/12)
ronaldo-silences-camp-nou-20120421.jpgYou could not have scripted it better. Barcelona had been gradually whittling down Real Madrid’s seemingly unassailable lead in the La Liga championship race. The meeting between the two best sides in the world at the Camp Nou would surely be decisive. A mixture of ugliness, petulance and brilliance had characterised a series of matches between the two bitter rivals over recent months, with Barça usually coming out on top. This time it was different. A tense, virile but well disputed match was decided by Ronaldo’s incisive finish in the 73rd minute. Mourinho, aided by his compatriots Ronaldo, Pepe, Ricardo Carvalho and Fábio Coentrão had done the seemingly impossible – gotten the better of what many consider to be the greatest club side of all time to lift the La Liga crown.
7. The unsung hero – Paulo Fonseca
Fonseca.jpegIf in the summer you asked 100 knowledgeable Portuguese football fans which team would finish the calendar year with just one defeat in 2012/13, I can guarantee you that not a single one of them would have replied Paços de Ferreira. Not even if he was a Paços de Ferreira fan. Not even if he was Paulo Fonseca, the Paços de Ferreira coach, making his debut in the top flight. The northern club has an annual budget of €3.5 million. The monthly wage bill of the entire squad comes to less than a single monthly salary of one of the stars at Benfica and Porto. The team’s three most impressive performers from last season, Melgarejo, Michel and Luisinho all left for Benfica in the close season. Yet Paços currently sit 4th in the standings, are into the quarter-finals of the Portuguese Cup and are handily placed in the League Cup. In short, they are overachieving to a quite preposterous degree. Paulo Fonseca. Remember that name.

8. The bombshells – Zenit’s double swoop (06/09/12)
witsel-20120307.jpghulk-20090728.jpgThe summer transfer market came and went with Javi García the only big-name casualty departing from the Portuguese game. Or so we thought. Then it happened. Zenit Saint Petersburg made a sensational swoop for FC Porto’s Hulk and Benfica’s Axel Witsel. What originally appeared a brazen attempt by the Portuguese media to wring the very last drop of transfer gossip out of the summer market quickly transpired as reality. Thanks to the erstwhile little known nuance of the Russian transfer deadline coming one week after the window has slammed shut in Western Europe. Neither club had the chance to bring in a replacement.

Zenit’s outlay was an incredible €80 million for the duo – money that even Portugal’s richest two clubs could not turn down. Although Benfica, perhaps in view of the €20 million they had received for García just days earlier, had apparently entertained doing so. Maxim Mitrofanov, General Manager of the Russian club subsequently revealed that “Benfica only signed the contract to sell Witsel once they were certain that Hulk had been sold.”

9. The shove – Luisão’s costly clash (11/08/12)
luisao-referee-fortuna-dusseldorf.jpgBenfica’s final pre-season friendly, in Germany against Fortuna Dusseldorf, had turned into a feisty encounter. It was the 39th minute. The rotund referee was about to brandish a second yellow card to Javi García. Captain Luisão came speeding towards the melee of players to plead his team-mate’s innocence, but succeeded only in crashing his shoulder into the official, sending Christian Fischer sprawling to the ground, and apparently knocked clean out. Jorge Jesus and other Benfica players did little to contain their mirth on the sidelines.
The match was abandoned. The mutual accusations began. “I did nothing wrong, my conscience is clear,” said Luisão. “I’m shocked. I don’t understand how players from a team with Benfica’s reputation can have such an attitude. We’ll be talking to the German Federation and UEFA about this,” said the president of the German club, Peter Frymuth. “I’ll see you in court,” said the referee. UEFA took a dim view and suspended the Benfica captain for two months, forcing him to sit out 11 matches. Suddenly the roly-poly referee was not so funny.

10. The commentary – Ronaldo’s 2nd vs. the Netherlands (17/06/12)
Nuno Matos. Antena Um. Palavras para que?
Comments (1)
Nuno Matos. Antena Um
1 Sunday, 30 December 2012 01:45
LOL he should do all the games, FOREVER! hahaah wonderful.

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