Euro 2000 yields shockers

Wednesday, June 21st 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ROTTERDAM, England (AP) — Bye bye English fans. Bye bye defending champion Germany. So long Lothar Matthaeus and German coach Erich Ribbeck.

Romania did UEFA a favor by ousting troublesome England from the European soccer championships Tuesday, while Portugal's reserve team brought Germany's reign to an end with a 3-0 humiliation that had German fans jeering their players.

Matthaeus, 39, made his world record 150th appearance, but finished at a new low. Ribbeck resigned Wednesday, finishing off a disastrous Euro 2000 campaign for the defending champion.

``I draw the conclusions from our catastrophic campaigns and I clear the way for a successor,'' Ribbeck said at a news conference.

``I failed to turn Germany's best players into a competitive team.''

In 24 internationals, Ribbeck won 10 games, tied six and lost eight — a dismal record for a team with Germany's soccer history and the worst compiled by any German coach.

England, whose fans disgraced their team and their nation by rioting in Brussels and Charleroi, needed just a point against Romania to make it to the quarterfinals.

Kevin Keegan's team led 2-1 early in the second half after coming from behind. But goalkeeper Nigel Martyn, a last-minute replacement for David Seaman, who injured his left leg in the warmup, gave away a tying goal with a needless punchout, and substitute Ioan Ganea fired home a penalty kick two minutes from the end for a 3-2 Romanian win.

That put the Romanians into the last eight along with Group A winner Portugal and avoided UEFA taking the option of kicking out England because of its violent fans.

European soccer's governing body threatened that unprecedented step if the England fans rioted again in the game against Romania. They behaved well, perhaps because they were expecting to go to Brussels for a quarterfinals showdown with Italy.

Instead, the Romanians go to Brussels. Keegan knows his team wasn't good enough.

``Of course I am devastated,'' he said. ``We did not play well enough, but with five minutes to go I thought we could hang on to something. But it was not to be.

``We've spent three matches chasing the football. We got into a position of being 2-1 up, but we never played as well as we can. We have to ask if we can pass it better and control a game. The answer in this tournament is, sadly, we couldn't.''

Romanian coach Emerich Jenei said the absence of standout player Gheorghe Hagi, who is retiring from international soccer after Euro 2000, inspired his players.

``I thank my team, because they were very confident and able to qualify,'' Jenei said. ``Because Hagi was absent, they tried to make up for it. We showed today we are a good team. The penalty was not a penalty, it was a present.''

While England's huge army of fans trooped north in defeat, the Germans went east in disgust.

The fans jeered their own stars off the field after the Portuguese, who rested nine of their regulars, strolled to a comfortable win. Portugal even got the first hat trick of the championship by a player who had been seething on the bench, Sergio Conceicao.

``I'm delighted to score three score goals and help Portugal win,'' the Lazio player said. ``We had a brilliant game, people said we could not repeat the form we showed against England, but we showed we have a great team.''

Portugal's elation after wins over England, Romania and Germany contrasted with the mood of Ribbeck.

``There was no fighting spirit, so it was there for all to see what happened,'' said Ribbeck. ``I admit that I've failed.''

Matthaeus, whose appearances in the starting lineup at age 39 have been greeted with derision by some, won't want to remember his last three games. Against the Romanians he was slow and constantly caught out of position.

The final positions in the remaining two groups will be decided Wednesday.

Even at the top of Group D are World Cup holder France and co-host the Netherlands. They meet in Amsterdam.

Group C is still wide open, with all four teams having a chance of gaining the last eight.

Group leader Yugoslavia, which has four points, meets Spain in Bruges, Belgium, with the Spaniards one point behind. Norway, which also has three points, faces Slovenia (one point), in Arnhem, Netherlands.