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WORLD CUP : NOTES

Eusebio defends Portugal's star

July 02, 2010|Kevin Baxter and Grahame L. Jones

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA, AND CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA — Eusebio, the only Portuguese player to win the Golden Boot as the top goal-scorer in a World Cup, came to the defense of his countryman Cristiano Ronaldo, whose Portugal team bowed out of the tournament in a second-round loss to Spain this week after Ronaldo netted only one goal in four games.

"Unfortunately for Portugal, Cristiano Ronaldo actually did not do very well," Eusebio said Thursday. "But I am not going to condemn him for that. I have also played and I can understand when players are in good or bad form."

Others have not been so kind to Ronaldo, who at 25 is among the best-paid soccer players in the world, with an estimated annual income of nearly $40 million. The world player of the year in 2008 turned in a string of poor performances for Portugal, which was knocked out of the World Cup in a 1-0 loss to Spain.

"I feel a broken man, completely disconsolate, frustrated and an unimaginable sadness," Ronaldo said after the game.

Don't believe the coupons

Don't tell the Brazilian players this, but some folks back home think they've already been eliminated.

In an advertisement placed in a leading Sao Paulo newspaper, the Extra chain of supermarkets expressed sorrow at the team's second-round loss to Chile.

"The team exited the World Cup but not our hearts," the ad reads in part. "Thanks Brazil, we'll see you in 2014."

Problem is, Brazil beat Chile, 3-0, and faces the Netherlands in the quarterfinals Friday.

Heroes' welcome

Japan's players left the World Cup in tears after their penalty-shootout loss to Paraguay. But their performance was greeted with cheers back home, with thousands of fans meeting the team at the airport in Osaka on Thursday waving flags that read, "Thank you."

Even Prime Minister Naoto Kan was full of praise.

"They showed the world the real strength of Japanese soccer by working as a team," he said.

The Asahi Shimbun, one of Japan's leading newspapers, was more laudatory.

"This experience surely will become the flesh and blood of Japanese soccer. It was a precious 120 minutes," it wrote under a headline that read, "Surprised the world."

South Korea's team also earned congratulations at home for reaching the second round before losing to Uruguay. Huge crowds had gathered in public squares all over the country to watch the team's games on big-screen TVs.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

grahame.jones@latimes.com

Baxter reported from Johannesburg and Jones reported from Cape Town.

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