A Sérgio Conceição hat-trick earned a largely second string Portugal side an eye-catching third victory in as many Group A outings to end Germany's UEFA European Championship defence.
The S.S. Lazio man ended growing German optimism with the opener on 35 minutes and by the time he completed his haul midway through the second half, even fans of the holders were applauding Portugal's flamboyance. On a day that saw Lothar Matthäus, Thomas Hässler and Ulf Kirsten win landmark caps, Germany's UEFA EURO 2000 campaign came to a mediocre end.
It was always mission improbable for Germany. Shorn of injured trio Christian Ziege, Markus Babbel and Jens Jeremies, they needed to win and for Romania to beat England by a smaller margin to stay in the competition. In the event Romania kept their part of the bargain, but Erich Ribbeck's side never really looked like doing their bit despite being up against a side who, with progress as section winners assure, rested their leading players.
Goalkeeper Vítor Baía was among them but replacement Pedro Espinha had an easy introduction as Portugal took the game to Germany. Pauleta shot wildly over early on though he was much closer on the quarter-hour, sliding in to meet Conceição's delivery. The ball rolled just past the post and news of Christian Chivu's goal for Romania brought Germany's supporters to life – their players soon awoke themselves.
Dietmar Hamann's speculative effort flew wide, as did Carsten Jancker's shot on the turn, and when Marco Bode hit the inside of the post at the end of a fine move involving Mehmet Scholl and Jancker suddenly everything seemed possible. Then disaster struck: In an increasingly rare foray forward, Portugal scored.
Pauleta and Rui Jorge played a delightful one-two on the edge of the area and when the latter's looping cross came in Conceição nodded the ball into the roof of the net from close range. At the other end Matthäus, winning his 150th and final cap, played in Jancker but his shot from the angle was parried, and by half-time German optimism had given way to resignation – England were leading.
Not even Romania's equaliser at the start of the second half was enough to rekindle enthusiasm and when Conceição scored his second on 54 minutes, his low shot slipping through Oliver Kahn's hands, they needed a miracle. Thereafter Portugal's shadow team turned on the style and even the Germany fans joined in the applause.
There was some cheer when Ribbeck brought on Kirsten for his 100th cap and Hässler for a record-equalling 13th UEFA European Championship finals appearance, but it was Conceição's night. Nineteen minutes from time the 25-year-old regained the spotlight, latching on to Capucho's pass and completing his hat-trick.
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