From Xavier to Batta: how controversy shaped Portugal v France rivalry | Philippe Auclair

There will be no hatred when the two meet in the Euro 2024 quarter-finals on Friday but it is unlikely to be incident-free

These were the days before video assistant referees, before the International Football Association Board had come up with the concept of “unnatural position”, before defenders contorted their bodies so that they ended up looking as if a police officer had manacled their arms behind their backs. At the time, in the eyes of football’s legislators, a handball offence must involve “a deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball with the arm/hand”.

Alas for Portugal, the assistant referee Roland van Nylen had no doubt this is what Abel Xavier had done to block a Sylvain Wiltord cross with his left arm deep in extra time of their Euro 2000 semi-final against France.

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