Frustration Again At World Cup as Stalemate Prevails

by Michael Somerville

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Portugal 0
Ivory Coast 0

Cristiano Ronaldo came ever so close in claiming his 23rd international goal for Portugal, but his early 25 yard effort was unlucky to smash against the bar. Ivory Coast looked sharp on the break, and with star man Didier Drogba waiting in the wings; they could only get more incisive in the second half. The tackles were flying in at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium and Ronaldo and Guy Demel were booked for some handbags after Zokora was booked for lunging in on Ronaldo. It simply wouldn’t be Ronaldo at the World Cup without some bad tempered petulance.

Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz had been ridiculed by playing Real Madrid centre back Pepe in midfield in previous matches, but today he started a far more orthodox midfield with an inexperienced Danny, defensive minded Raul Meireles and leader Deco. Pepe had been struggling with a knee injury since late last year and was subsequently dropped to the bench.

Deco provided an excellent probing run through the middle, but his searching pass to Danny was well read by the Ivory Coast defence.

Emmanuel Eboue also made a fearless forward run on the half hour mark, but the through ball was just too quick and the loose ball was scooped up by keeper Eduardo. This game was touted by many to kick off the World Cup in style, but both teams looked scrappy and cautious in midfield, and as a result there were little chances to speak of.

Gervinho tested Ricardo Carvalho with a pacey run down the left and earned a corner as ‘The Elephants’ started brightly in the second half. Salomon Kalou had a good chance to get a header in on goal- surely a chance that Didier Drogba would have tested Eduardo with. The Africa and Chelsea star continued to warm up on the sidelines; eying the Portugal defence ominously.

Kalou could have given the Ivory Coast a deserved lead after 53 minutes but could only side foot at the keeper from 15 yards. You sensed that the introduction of Drogba would galvanise the African’s front line that was just lacking that World Cup quality. Arune Dindane continued to work hard for the Africans as they went in search for that ever important goal.

The second half was much more energetic, flowing and open than the first, with Gervinho continuing to torment Paulo Ferreria down the left hand side. The pacy winger has been linked with Arsenal for many years and certainly didn’t harm his reputation today. Quieroz introduced Tiago and Simao but these substitutions were completely dwarfed by the vuvuzela racquet (who look here to stay) that greeted Drogba’s arrival. He may be derided at times in the Premier League, but the striker is a hero in Africa and around the world for his highly commendable peace work.

Raul Meireles saw a shot that fizzed past the right hand post as Portugal offered some attacking intent. With 10 minutes to go Ronaldo won himself another free kick and his audacious free- kick almost found the top corner. It had been a selfish and petulant performance from Ronaldo but he looked the most likely to grab the goal for Portugal. Brazilian born striker Liedson found it difficult to find himself any kind of space and will not find it any easier against his home country Brazil.

Drogba then had a marvellous opportunity to be his countries hero, but he pulled his shot wide as he agonisingly stretched for Abdelkader Keitas pass. Keita had another chance in the penalty box but his effort was bravely blocked the Portugal back line.

A decent game of football that could have offered so much, but unfortunately followed in the recent trend of cautious and defensive football.

Ivory Coast

01 Boubacar Copa
04 Toure (C)
17 Tiene
20 Demel Yellow card
21 Eboue (Romaric, 88)
05 Zokora Yellow card
09 Tiote
19 Yaya Toure
08 Kalou (Drogba, 65)
10 Gervinho (Keita, 82)
15 Dindane

01 Eduardo
02 Bruno Alves
03 Ferreira
06 Carvalho
23 Fabio Coentrao
08 Mendes
10 Danny (Simao, 55)
16 Raul Meireles (Ruben Amorim, 85)
20 Deco (Tiago, 62)
07 Ronaldo (C) Yellow card
09 Liedson

Follow my reports where I’ll be blogging on every World Cup match in South Africa with refreshing reactions and insight.

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