With the pain of the elimination still burning inside, the veteran Portuguese defender Pepe made a bold claim, saying that the World Cup has been set to give Argentina the title.
Minutes after the 0-1 defeat against Morocco, Pepe elaborated his conspiracy theory talking with Portuguese broadcaster RTP3. And a lot had to do with the referee selection for the game against the Atlas Lions, Facundo Tello, who is Argentine.
Before we continue, here is some context for the casual soccer fan. One of the biggest rivalries in the sport is the one between Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) and Lionel Messi (Argentina). Both are called the G.O.A.T among their followers and both came to this World Cup trying to obtain their first World Cup title.
Now Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo are out of the tournament, while Argentina and Messi reached the semifinals after a controversial game vs. the Netherlands.
And well, back to Pepe.
The defender complained sourly about the official's nationality and his performance during the game.
"It's unacceptable for an Argentine referee to referee our game. After what happened yesterday, with Messi talking, all of Argentina's team talking and the referee comes here to blow the whistle," he said. "I'm not saying he comes here conditioned, but what did we play in the second half? The goalkeeper [Bono] dropped to the ground. There were only eight minutes of stoppage time. We worked seriously and the referee gave eight minutes? We didn't play anything in the second half."
Portugal - Pepe: «É inadmissível um árbitro argentino apitar o nosso jogo» https://t.co/OyLFxTbDco— Diário Record (@Record_Portugal) December 10, 2022
Pepe also disapproved of the attitude of Facundo Tello during the game and ended the interview suggesting the tournament had been rigged in Argentina's favor.
"The feeling and arrogance of the referee on the field, I can bet everything I have that Argentina will be champion. For what he did today. An Argentine referee. Five of the nine referees who were on the field today were Argentine. What else can I say? Let's see at the end to see who will win."