- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 6, 2002

SUWON, Portugal (AP) Fans were fretting earlier this year whether Luis Figo would recover from injury in time to help the Portuguese produce a dazzling performance in their first World Cup in 16 years.
He did. They didn't.
Figo, FIFA's world player of the year, stood out for all the wrong reasons in yesterday's shocking 3-2 loss to the United States.
He displayed only occasional flashes of the brilliance for which he is known. And they weren't enough by a long shot to spare Portugal the embarrassment of losing to the unheralded Americans.
Portugal had a weak performance, showing early on this would not be the predicted easy win.
In a prescient commentary about Portugal's star player, one American fan in the bleachers held up a sign saying: "Figo Who?"
Usually, Figo slaloms through defenses, weaves his way down the flanks to deliver pinpoint crosses, and stuns goalies with his fierce shots. Portugal coach Antonio Oliveira says Figo is as important to this team as soccer great Eusebio was to the team of 1966 that finished third in the World Cup.
Figo rarely demonstrated his talents at Suwon Stadium, but said his injury layoff was not to blame.
"I feel fine," Figo said of the ankle injury that sidelined him for 10 weeks during the Spanish season, where he plays for European club champion Real Madrid. "I'm just upset about the result."
American defender Tony Sanneh received most of the credit for dulling Figo's shine. He marked the Portuguese star for most of the game, while Frankie Hejduk took on Sergio Conceicao on the other side.
Rui Costa, normally another effective attacker, had a bad day in the center of the field, repeatedly mis-hitting passes and holding up the flow of Portugal's game.
Portugal was down 3-0 after 36 minutes, partly because of defensive blunders.
"We made some basic mistakes, which led to the final outcome," Figo said. "As we all saw, our first half was very bad."
There was also questioning of Oliveira's tactics. Feeling confident, he fielded an attacking formation with just one defensive midfielder who couldn't cope with Landon Donovan, Brian McBride and DaMarcus Beasley's charges downfield.
When Portugal staged a comeback in the second half, the mostly Korean crowd chanted Figo's name and howled every time he moved toward the American penalty area.
But Figo, like his teammates, appeared frazzled and short of ideas to break down the tiring American defense.

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