THE PORTUGUESE rugby team has qualified for the World Cup finals in France later this year, making history in the process by being the first amateur team to reach the final 20.
The country’s rugby fans were left shocked and ecstatic following the final eliminator second-leg victory in Montevideo.
The more experienced Uruguay lost 12-5 in Lisbon on March 10 and won 18-12 in South America on Saturday. But Portugal’s Lobos scraped through with an aggregate victory of 24-23.
Coach Tomaz Morais had a huge smile on his face when he said: “it is a wonderful achievement for a group of players and officials that made a huge effort. My wife and children know how hard it was and that in all these years not one day went past in that I didn’t think of the World Cup.”
A total of 86 countries participated in 192 qualification matches, but only 20 have made it to France 2007.
There, Portugal face an uphill battle to progress in competition. The first fixture is against Scotland in St Etienne on September 9, followed by New Zealand six days later in Lyon, then Italy on September 19 and finally Romania in Toulouse on September 25.
The Portuguese rugby team’s victory was eclipsed by the antics of six players, who spent what should have been their night in the spotlight, in a Uruguayan jail.
After Saturday’s game, João Correia, Duarte Cardoso Pinto, Gonçalo Uva, Rui Cordeiro, Paulo Murinelo and another player, whose name has not yet been revealed, were arrested after causing a disturbance in a night club as they celebrated in Montevideo’s old city.
They were released on Sunday and flew home after the situation was resolved.
Allegedly, a police officer was struck during an encounter with the players, which led to their arrests.
Jorge Barerra, a lawyer to the players, said that the judge had decided to drop the case and no charges were filed.
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