CAPE TOWN (AFP) - Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz admitted Tuesday that arch-rivals Spain were the better team and deserved to stay in the World Cup, but said his players did themselves proud.
The European champions won a tight round of 16 contest 1-0, leaving Portugal facing another four years before getting another crack at winning the World Cup for the first time in their history.
"Spain won with merit," said Queiroz. "But I would also like to underscore the fact that Portugal played with a great degree of dignity and ambition and I believe the fans have justifiable reason to be proud of the way the team has played."
Portugal indeed played a clever game, defending well before launching counter-attacks. But ultimately the statistics speak for themselves, with Spain plundering 19 shots to Portugal's nine.
Spain also had far more possession, something Queiroz admitted was the difference between the two sides.
|Spain's defender Joan Capdevila (L) celebrates with Portugal's defender Bruno Alves after the match Spain vs. Portugal on June 29, 2010. AFP|
"It was an extremely difficult game but Spain moved the ball very well and had more possession and any team that does that can control the game better," he said.
"We did have opportunities to score but unfortuantely we were not able to do so, hence allowing Spain to win 1-0.
"We could have scored at certain critical moments, but Spain's victory is justified."
Portugal leave the tournament having conceeded just one goal, but it was costly one with David Villa doing the damage.
Queiroz said they would learn from the experience.
"We wanted to do well and when we compete at this level, if we manage to obtain second or third, it is not satisfactory," he said.
"We always have as our main goal to win. We also want to have an honourable performance to dignify Portuguese football.
"I wanted us to be able to leave the field with our heads held high, and I think we accomplished this."