Portugal players Pepe and Bruno Fernandes lashed out at the Argentine referee in charge of their 1-0 World Cup quarter-final defeat by Morocco on Saturday, claiming his nationality impacted the game.
Argentina progressed on Friday by beating the Netherlands and should they reach the final, might play against Morocco if they win their semi-final against England or France.
The match referee Facundo Tello, his two assistants and the video assistant referee were all from Argentina.
“It’s unacceptable for an Argentine referee to referee our game,” Pepe said on Portuguese television.
“After what happened yesterday, with (Lionel) Messi talking, all of Argentina talking, and the referee comes here.
“What did we play in the second half? The goalkeeper dropped to the ground. There were only eight minutes of stoppage time. We worked hard and the referee (only added on) eight minutes.”
Argentina striker Messi had complained about the refereeing of his team’s clash with the Netherlands, saying too much time had been added on.
Portugal’s main complaint was that too little had been in their clash with Morocco, critical of supposed time-wasting by the North African side in the second half.
Bruno Fernandes complained that far more injury time should have been added, and that referees from teams still involved in the tournament should not be appointed to matches.
‘Knew what to expect’
“We already know how it works… before the game we already knew what we were in for, and what kind of referee we would find,” said Fernandes, who was also furious after not being awarded a first-half penalty.
“Unfortunately, in these competitions, where there are no Portuguese referees, there are referees from teams that are still in the competition.
“It seems strange to me, to say the least, but I don’t want to get into that, because that’s not the only reason we lost.
“The referee gave two minutes of injury time in the first half and eight in the second. In this second half, the game was stopped, at minimum, for between 15 and 20 minutes.”
Fernandes added: “We knew that we would play against much more than just Morocco.”
However, his coach Fernando Santos did not think the officials made a big difference in his team’s elimination.
“I don’t think so, I think he could have called for a foul on one or two (more) occasions but generally speaking I don’t think so,” said Santos.
“I think we could have done more and we didn’t do so. I don’t think we should blame the referee, it doesn’t make sense.”
The coach, who has a contract until after Euro 2024, said he would discuss his future in the days to come with the Portuguese football federation.
Manchester City Ruben Dias believes the team still has plenty of potential moving forward.
“Above all, it is important at this moment, despite the difficult of digesting (the defeat) to accumulate more experience,” said Dias.
“We have a very young generation with a lot of quality and we have to have faith that nothing is lost.”