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Portugal seek Round of 16, and some revenge, against Brazil

June 24th, 2010

Brazil are already through to the World Cup’s Round of 16, and Portugal virtually also, but their clash Friday is still very significant.

A match between the Europeans and the fellow-Portuguese-speaking record champions across the Atlantic is never trivial.

“It’s a special match. We’re playing a great team who on top of that have very good players. We’re facing our brothers across the Atlantic,” said Portugal midfielder Tiago.

To prove just how special the match is, suffice it to recall a friendly the two teams played in Brasilia in November 2002, which the hosts won not by an irrelevant, friendly-game-style goal difference, but with a hurtful 6-2 thrashing.

“We will never forget the defeat in Brasilia. But this will be no vendetta because that doesn’t exist in football. We want to win to be able to forget that match,” Tiago added.

Tiago and his team-mates can presumably find other motivations too. Although a draw, and even a defeat by less than a major thrashing, will see Portugal through to the Round of 16, if they beat Brazil they will finish on top of Group G.

Group H is playing its last games later Friday with many options still open, so neither Brazil nor Portugal can try to avoid a possible second-round date with tough Euro 2008 champions Spain.

But coming top of a group that was considered a “Group of Death” ahead of the World Cup will doubtless be a boost of confidence for either team.

There will be no showdown between Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo and his fellow-Real Madrid “galactico” Kaka in Durban, because Brazil’s playmaker is suspended after a red card.

Injury is also likely to take its toll on both sides, with Elano doubtful for Brazil and Deco trying to recover on time for Portugal.

But Portugal and Brazil should still offer a top match. Kaka is likely to be replaced by Julio Baptista, with Dani Alves playing as a winger – instead of his usual right-back position – instead of Elano. Tiago already did very well as he replaced Deco against North Korea, in a match in which he scored two goals as Portugal won 7-0.

Brazil, who are seeking the sixth World Cup title in their history in South Africa, are likely to be especially motivated against Ronaldo, Simao, Ricardo Carvalho and their team-mates.

“I always try to do my best, whoever is on the other side. But it’s clear that playing against a strong team with great players gives us greater motivation and joy, because we know it will be a good match,” Brazil captain Lucio admitted.

And of course, the match is likely to be particularly special for Portugal’s three Brazilian-born players, Pepe, Deco and Liedson, although only the latter was likely to see some action.

Football rivalry between Brazil and Portugal is particularly great whenever the Europeans join the global football elite which invariably features the “verdeamarela.”

In 1966, Eusebio’s Portugal sent Brazil’s stars home in the first round of the World Cup, the last time they suffered such an early elimination. And in recent years Portugal have increased their prestige with good performances.

“In our last two matches, we lost in London and we gave them a thrashing in Brasilia, which increases the rivalry,” Kaka admitted this week.

Be that as it may, the match in Durban is likely to be good, with two teams who like to play beautiful attacking football and, above all, to win not just the match and the group but even the World Cup.

“When we go into the pitch we seek victory,” Lucio warned. “There is no way to choose rivals in a World Cup.”


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