Portuguese Players Face Heavy Suspensions

Published July 2nd, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Portugal right back Abel Xavier was banned nine-months by European football's governing body UEFA on Sunday for his part in the fracas at the end of his side's 2-1 defeat in the Euro semifinals. 

Striker Nuno Gomes was banned for eight months and midfielder Paulo Bento was banned for six months and the Portuguese federation received a 175,000 Swiss franc fine. 

The heavy punishments include all UEFA competitions. 

Austrian referee Gunter Benko penalized Portugal's Xavier for handling Sylvain Wiltord's shot after consulting assistant referee Igor Sranka of Slovakia at the King Baudouin stadium four minutes before the end of golden goal extra-time on Wednesday. 

The decision sparked furious scenes among the Portuguese camp and it took several minutes for order to be restored allowing Zinedine Zidane to score the winner. 

Gomes was shown the red card for his part in the incident and midfield maestro Luis Figo was seen throwing his shirt away in frustration before the spotkick was taken. Other players appeared to jostle the official. 

UEFA on Thursday confirmed Benko has been correct to award the penalty, which brought about the chaotic scenes. "It was an obvious handball," UEFA had said in a statement. 

Ironically it had been Xavier who had almost won the match for Portugal with a superb header pushed away by keeper Fabien Barthez in perhaps the save of the tournament seconds before the end of full-time. 

Nuno Gomes scored the Portuguese goal against France with a left-footed curler, which left Barthez stranded in the 19th minute before Thierry Henry equalized for France shortly after the break. 

Bento is not a first-choice player for Portugal who have one of the best midfields in the world – (AFP) 


© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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