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Portugal 0 Brazil 0: match report

June 25th, 2010

Cristiano Ronaldo (right) challenges Felipe Melo as Brazil and Portugal grind out a goalless draw Photo: GETTY IMAGES

When the draw for the World Cup was made last December, one match stood out above all others: Brazil v Portugal.

The promise of a clash between the Latin samba-skills of Kaka and the Iberian flair of Cristiano Ronaldo also helped ensure that it sold out more quickly than any of the other 48 group matches.

Yet this was an afternoon when the reality did not match expectation. Defences dominated and, with seven bookings even before half-time, the most lingering memory was of cynical and sometimes dangerous fouling rather than flowing football.

The bad feeling may have been augmented by the cultural rivalry between the two countries following Brazil’s past history as a Portuguese colony, but the essential problem was that both teams were clearly satisfied with a goalless draw.

Brazil duly progress to the last 16 as Group G winners while Portugal clinched the point that guaranteed the elimination Sven-Goran Eriksson’s Ivory Coast.

The suspension for this match of Kaka meant a chance for Julio Baptista just behind the two Brazilian forwards, with Nilmar brought in to partner Luis Fabiano in attack.

The Brazil midfield was further reorganised with the inclusion of Dani Alves for Elano, yet the changes caused little difference to their overall style and the pattern for the match was quickly established.

With Gilberto Silva and Felipe Mela dictating the tempo, barely a pass was misplaced as Brazil constantly retained and recycled the ball to dominate possession.

The cutting edge, however, was lacking, with Portugal diligently stifling the supply for Fabiano and Nilmar.

Their approach was embodied by Pepe, one of three Brazil-born and bred players in the Portugal squad, who was constantly walking a tightrope between effectively smothering his more technically gifted opponents and making illegal tackles.

His contest with Felipe Melo was particularly heated, with both players receiving yellow cards for dangerously late challenges. Dunga, the Brazil coach, quickly sensed the danger of losing Melo for future matches and substituted him just one minute before half-time, while Pepe was just fortunate that he ended the first-half on the pitch.

Brazil also showed their cynical side, with Juan risking a red card when he made a deliberate handball to block a potentially defence-splitting pass that Duda had intended for Cristiano Ronaldo.

The better of the occasional first-half chances fell to Brazil, with Alves crossing brilliantly to dissect the Portugal defence only for Nilmar’s shot to be defected onto the crossbar by Eduardo.

Another cross from the right, this time from Maicon, was also just headed wide by Luis Fabiano, the tournament’s leading goalscorer.

For Brazil, the most dangerous first-half moment arose when Tiago went down inside the penalty area following the faintest of pushes in the back from Gilberto Silva. Referee Benito Archundia simply cautioned Tiago for play acting.

Ronaldo was effectively spearheading the Portuguese attack as a lone central striker and created the outstanding chance of the match with a slaloming second-half run.

Lucio had made a brilliant tackle to dispossess Ronaldo, yet the ball was simply directed into the path of Raul Meireles, whose shot with the outside of his foot was superbly saved by Julio Cesar.

Brazil rarely moved out of first gear during the second-half, although did force two late saves from Eduardo.

First Lucio headed rather too close to the Portuguese goalkeeper from the edge of the six-yard box and then Ramires’ shot was deflected off Bruno Alves and athletically tipped over the bar.

Yet the whistles of dissent that ultimately rang out around the Moses Mabhida stadium – above even the obligatory vuvuzelas – delivered the most accurate assessment on a truly anti-climatic afternoon.

By Jeremy Wilson

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