Shuttered dream sends England into mourning

When Cristiano Ronaldo scored the decider to give Portugal a 3-1 win, the Manchester United star plunged the country into despair.

On the pitch, the players could not disguise their heartache – David Beckham and John Terry openly wept.

Gary Lineker described the scene for fans watching at home. “There are tears on the pitch as the World Cup dream comes to an end.”

In the stands, Beckham’s wife Victoria sobbed and struggled to comfort son Brooklyn (7), who was inconsolable. Cheryl Tweedy, fiancee of defender Ashley Cole, shook her head in disbelief before hugging her friend Posh.

Wayne Rooney’s fiancee Coleen McLaughlin wiped away tears as she sobbed over his nightmare game, which ended when he was sent off leaving England to battle on with10 men.

Referees fall short

They may have started the World Cup well with just the odd human error but as the competition has become more pressurised, the referees haven’t been able to handle it.

The trophy could well be won or lost today because of a calamitous call from a referee.

At the start of the tournament we were told fourth officials would have access to TV pictures and communicate their findings to the referee. So why have so many big decisions been incorrect?

Too many assistant refs have blundered over offside calls as the ever-increasing speed of forwards proves too much for the naked eye. The penalty decisions that sent the United States and Australia out were terrible. France equalised from a free-kick against Spain that should never have been given.

Nearly every slide tackle has been punished and the refs are obviously confused by the difference between players rising for an aerial challenge with arms braced for balance and those who will use an arm as a weapon in that situation.

United keen on Maxim

Manchester United are lining up a move for ‘5 million-rated Ukraine World Cup midfielder Maxim Kalinichenko.

Old Trafford boss Sir Alex Ferguson has been impressed by the Spartak Moscow man (26), who helped his country into the quarter-finals.

United officials are understood to have contacted their counterparts at Kalinichenko’s Russian club. Spartak have indicated their readiness to sit down and discuss terms.

Germans Borussia Dortmund and Spanish club Valencia are also keen on the playmaker.

But Kalinichenko is eager to copy the example of national colleague Andriy Shevchenko, who has recently joined Chelsea, and move to the Premiership.

Essien urges United snub

Michael Essien has urged ‘5 million-rated Freddy Adu to snub Manchester United and the USA and join him at Chelsea and Ghana.

DC United star Adu (17) is at the middle of a three-year tug-of-war between United and Chelsea. And the midfielder is now mulling over whether to switch nationality from the US back to his native Ghana, after the World Cup debutants reached the last 16.

Chelsea and Ghana’s ’24 million man Essien said: “Freddy is a really good young player and I hope he joins me at Chelsea. It would make me very happy, for sure. It’s now up to him to decide which country he wants to play for and he would be more than welcome in our team.”

Adu, who emigrated from Ghana to the US when he was eight, signed Major League Soccer and Nike deals at the age of 14 and pockets about ‘600 000 a year.

He made his senior USA debut in January, as a sub in a 0-0 friendly draw with Canada. But it was not a competitive fixture and Adu is now thinking of reverting to Ghana.

Ronaldo, Wayne friendship unshaken

Cristiano Ronaldo said there was “no problem” between him and Wayne Rooney and that he wasn’t to blame for the England striker’s dismissal in last Saturday’s World Cup quarter-final.

The Portugal winger said the pair had cleared the air following Rooney’s sending off and pleaded that he wasn’t responsible for the red card.

Ronaldo said: “The things that have been said regarding me and my team-mate and friend. Between me and Rooney, there is absolutely no problem. I reiterate, no problem.

“At the end of the game, we sent each other some text messages. Between the two of us everything has been cleared. He wished me the best of luck in the World Cup. He told me we had a great team and that if we continued to play like this, we would go far.

“He wasn’t angry with me and moreover, he told me to completely ignore what the English Press has said, that all they wanted was to create confusion but we are already used to that.”

Ronaldo said he had warm exchanges with his United team-mates before kick-off.

“Before the game, I spoke in the tunnel to my club team-mates Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand and Rooney,” he said.

Eriksson bursts into tears

England manager Sven Goran Eriksson stunned his players when he burst into tears in the dressing room after the defeat to Portugal.

Swedish ice-man Eriksson rarely shows emotion even in the most fraught circumstances but that changed at the AufSchalke Arena.

The England boss broke down and wept in Gelsenkirchen when he tried to thank the players for all their efforts in his five years in charge.

The devastated players, still reeling from the penalty shoot-out loss to Portugal, tried to console him. And Eriksson eventually managed to finish his speech marking the end of his controversial reign as England boss.

July 2006
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