Figo defends narrow win

Portugal captain Luis Figo hit back at the critics who insisted a 1-0 win over World Cup debutants Angola represents a poor start to the Group D campaign.

Portugal captain Luis Figo hit back at the critics who insisted a 1-0 win over World Cup debutants Angola represents a poor start to the Group D campaign.

An early goal from prolific Paris St Germain striker Pauleta turned out to be enough to take all three points from the first competitive meeting between Portugal and the African colony that gained independence in 1975.

Two previous friendly meetings had ended with thumping Portuguese victories but Figo was adamant no-one should have been banking on another goal-fest, especially as games in other groups had been tight.

He said: “Did you expect Portugal to win five or six nil? Where are the other teams that have won by such a margin? The results so far have been wins by one or two goals.

“I believe we were at the level expected of us. Many people were thinking Angola was an easy team but they were not – and you saw that.”

Portugal manager Luiz Felipe Scolari made it clear he felt the same way, although he was careful not to put his words as forcefully as his captain.

He said: “I’m not going to say much because it will be front-page news and I will be the worst guy in the world. I’m not as politically correct as Figo.

“But a victory even by the narrowest margin is excellent. That’s what we wanted – three points in the bag.

“If you look at the results of the other matches so far, no team has won their game easily. Take Sweden for example – one of the best teams in the world. They drew with Trinidad and Tobago, who were a well-organised team.”

Angola began nervously and Pauleta fired inches wide with just 15 seconds on the clock from the very first move of the night before converting a Figo pass in the fourth minute.

But Mendonca soon forced a save out of Portugal goalkeeper Ricardo and the Africans’ star man, Fabrice Akwa, sent an acrobatic over-head kick just over.

Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo saw a header from a Figo corner bounce back off the crossbar in the 34th minute but Ricardo was soon called into the action again at the other end, this time to deny Andre.

Ronaldo saw a well-struck effort impressively saved just before half-time but the second 45 minutes were hardly worth a mention as Angola put Portugal under pressure without creating any clear-cut chances.

Angola coach Luis Goncalves declared himself pleased with the way his inexperienced players had risen to the occasion despite that early setback.

He said: “Portugal deserved to win but my players played with pride. Angola played at their best level.”

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