Portugal defender Pepe has blamed an Argentinian referee and Lionel Messi’s complaints for his country’s World Cup exit.
Morocco fired Portugal in Doha with an incredible 1-0 win at Al Thumama Stadium, becoming the first African side to reach a World Cup semi-final.
The tournament will likely be the last for a number of Portugal’s aging stars, including Porto defender Pepe, who became the second-oldest all-time World Cup goalscorer in a previous win over Switzerland.
The 39-year-old Brazilian-born star may have scored his last goal for his country and picked a surprise reason for the post-match exit.
Speaking to Portuguese outlet SIC, Pepe said: “We conceded a goal we didn’t expect but I have to say it’s bigger than me and I’ll have to say it…
“It’s unacceptable that an Argentinian referee is refereeing our game. After what happened yesterday, with Messi talking, all Argentina talking and the referee comes here to whistle.
“I’m not saying he comes here conditioned… but what did we play in the second half? The guard fell to the ground. There were only eight minutes of added time. We worked seriously and the referee eight minutes?
“We didn’t play anything in the second half. The only team playing football was us. We are sad. We had the quality to win the World Cup and we didn’t.
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He added: “I can bet Argentina will be champions.”
Bruno Fernandes also echoed Pepe’s thoughts, wondering why there is no Portuguese referee at the tournament and dismissing claims he dived.
The Manchester United midfielder said: “It’s very strange to have a referee who still has his national team competing and we don’t have a Portuguese referee.
“Ours referee the Champions League, so they have the quality and the level to be here.
“They [World Cup referees] don’t referee the champions, they’re not used to this kind of games, they don’t have the rhythm for it. They clearly leaned into the field.
“In the first half there is a clear penalty on me. I am isolated and never in my life will I let myself down when I am alone in front of the goalkeeper and can shoot on goal in a situation like this.
The surprising charges against referee Facundo Tello come after Argentina booked their place in the semi-finals in a heated clash with the Netherlands.
Messi scored and assisted in the 2-2 draw before scoring in the shootout to put his side through.
This quarter-final was full of controversy with a number of scrums on the pitch and a whopping 17 yellow cards and one red.
Messi said: “This game shouldn’t have ended the way it did. I don’t want to talk about the referee because he punishes you. But people saw what happened.
“We were scared before the match because we knew how he was doing and I think FIFA needs to review that. You can’t put a referee like him in for these matches.
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