ROTTERDAM -- Defending champions Germany,
once the kings of consistency, limped out of Euro 2000 after a
humiliating 3-0 defeat by a second-string Portugal on Tuesday.
They carried with them the stigma of being the worst German
team in major finals since World War Two.
A classy hat-trick by Sergio Conceicao helped the Portuguese
hand the former world champions their biggest defeat in a
European championship finals' match.
Germany's footballers, once reliable and durable, finished
the tournament a battered, old machine.
In the last 55 years, the Germans have only once before
failed to get past the first round of any major tournament -- at
the 1984 European championship.
But they managed to win one match and draw in France 16
years ago. At Euro 2000 the Germans finished bottom of group A
with one draw and two defeats.
Portugal, who finished top of the group with a 100 percent
record and now face Turkey in the quarter-finals, rubbed salt in
German wounds by making their defence look pedestrian with
Conceicao's goals in the 36th, 54th and 71st minutes.
"We started the game well and hit the post," said German
coach Erich Ribbeck who is expected to face intense pressure to
step down. "Then we went a goal down to a team that was
technically superior to us and, you could say, almost humiliated
us and fully deserved their win.
"Our players lacked the power and physical strength to turn
things around. I am responsible for this team and how they
played this tournament and I don't shirk that responsibility at
He added: "I have failed."
Captain and goalkeeper Oliver Kahn, who made an embarrassing
mistake for the second goal, letting Conceicao's fierce 25-metre
shot underneath his body, added: "I feel ashamed for the entire
team which has lost its nerve completely. There is no other
option than to rebuild a new team."
Portugal, who rested most of their leading players, never
let the Germans into the game apart from the 31st minute when
Marco Bode found himself free on the left of the box. But his
shot hit the right-hand post.
Just five minutes later Germany's slim hopes of staying in
the competition were effectively destroyed when Pauleta's cross
from the left took a deflection towards the right-hand post and
Conceicao dived over at the line to head the ball home.
His second was embarrassing to the usually reliable Kahn but
he produced a classy finish for the third, running on to a pass
from Capucho on the right-hand side of the box and blasting the
This game on a warm Dutch night will go down as possibly the
lowest moment in German football history. The public at home
will never forget it. It marked the end of an era with the 150th
and last cap of libero Lothar Matthaeus who walked off the field
at the end looking dismayed at his team's poor performance.
The most capped player of all time, who was nicknamed
"motor mouth" for his incessant talking to the media in his
early days, left the stadium without a word to reporters.
After the 1984 finals, coach Jupp Derwall parted company
with the team and Franz Beckenbauer began a golden era during
which the Germans won the 1990 World Cup.
Ribbeck is unlikely to survive this and will now talk to
German soccer officials about his future. But the problem is
bigger than one man. Germany, struggling to find young talent,
faces an uphill task to make it back to the top.
Many of the Dutch and Portuguese fans in the Rotterdam arena
took delight in watching the demise of a country who so often
seemed to have had luck on their side in major tournaments.
But Portuguese coach Humberto Coelho refused to admit he had
sent out his reserve side, keen to stress that all his squad was
capable of playing a role at Euro 200.
"This is great joy for us but we have to keep our cool, "
he said. "It will be a difficult game against the Turks and we
are now focussing on this."
|Sergio Conceicao of Portugal, right, nets one of his three goals.|| |
Romania's penalty shot kicks England out of Euro 2000
Euro 2000 coverage from Soccernet
Euro 2000 standings and results