'I bet Argentina win World Cup' – Portugal pair point finger at South American officials

Pepe, Bruno Fernandes and several other Portugal players complain to the referee during their team's 1-0 loss to Morocco at World Cup 2022.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Portugal pair Pepe and Bruno Fernandes were furious with the Argentine referee following their team's World Cup last-eight exit to Morocco on Saturday and believe there is bias towards Lionel Messi et al at Qatar 2022.

Morocco advanced to the semi-finals following a 1-0 win at the Al Thumama Stadium and become the first African nation to make the last four of a World Cup.

But for Portugal, European champions in 2016, it is likely to be the end of the road at this tournament for many of their elder players – including 37-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo and Pepe, who is 39.

Portugal's players were unhappy with some of the decisions during the game made by Argentine referee Facundo Tello and his team, and also what they believed was time wasting by Morocco.

Afterwards, Pepe and Bruno voiced their discontent that an Argentine official was chosen to take charge of the match.

"It is unacceptable for an Argentine referee to officiate our game," Pepe said. "After what happened yesterday, with [Lionel] Messi talking, all of Argentina talking and the referee comes here to blow the whistle. I'm not saying that he comes here conditioned... but what did we play in the second half?

"The goalkeeper dropped to the ground. He only gave eight minutes of added time. We worked seriously and the referee gives eight minutes? "The only team that played football was us. We are sad. We had the quality to win the World Cup and we didn't do it."

And he added: "The feeling and arrogance of the referee on the field, I can bet everything I have that Argentina will be champions.

"For what he did today. An Argentine referee, out of nine referees, five who were on the pitch today are Argentines… what else can I say? Let's see at the end who will win..."

Speaking later, Bruno echoed those thoughts, despite being told to choose his words carefully by the team's press officer.

"It is very strange to have a referee who still has his national team in the competition and not to have a Portuguese referee [at the World Cup]," he said.

"Our referees officiate in the Champions League, so they have the quality and level to be here. These don't referee the Champions League, they're not used to this type of games, they don't have the pace for this.

"They clearly tilted the field. In the first half there is a clear penalty on me. I'm isolated and never in my life will I let myself fall when I'm alone in front of the goalkeeper and I can shoot on goal in a situation like that."

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Weekend editor

Ben Hayward is Weekend Editor for FourFourTwo. A European football writer with over 15 years’ experience, he has covered games all over the world - including three World Cups, several Champions League finals, Euros, Copa América - and has spent much of that time in Spain. He currently divides his time between Barcelona and London.