It was a match that promised to deliver, but failed to live up to its promise as Ivory Coast and Portugal played to a 0-0 draw. Portugal were expected to do better than Ivory Coast, especially considering that the iconic Ivorian captain Didier Drogba started on the bench with a broken arm. It turned out that Ivory Coast was a more than able opponent.
Ivory Coast put in a great first half, dominating the physically smaller Portuguese, and finding their stride quickly to place enormous pressure on the opponents’ defence. There was a heart-stopping moment in the seventh minute as Chistiano Ronaldo fired in a thunderous shot that rattled Boubacar Barry’s side post. But the Ivorian defence rallied quickly, and managed to keep him quiet for the rest of the half. The Ivorian defence’s hard game produced the typical result from Ronaldo: plenty of diving. Bruno Alves, who is captain for FC Porto, would have been far more inspiring with the yellow arm band. Deco, the other creative player in the Portuguese side, was a shadow of his former self as he failed to find the gaps in the Ivorian defence.
The Ivory Coast defence was strong, not only managing to keep Ronaldo and Deco out, but launching runs from deep within their half. Kolo Toure was the more inspiring of the two captains, making several crucial tackles and rallying his defence. He struggled with cramp towards the end of the second half, but fortunately was not sidelined by it. The gigantic Demel also stood out,
An Ivorian player who had a most exciting game was 23-year-old Gervinho, who asked many questions of the Portuguese defence. He could have been sharper in his finishing, but full credit to him for being an influential wing player.
Salomon Kalou was a mere shadow of his normal self, losing several crucial battles and snuffing out what would have been good scoring opportunities for the Elephants. It was disappointing play from a great player, and he was eventually substituted for Didier Drogba, who had an immediate impact on the game’s mood. He was clearly nursing his injured arm though, and shot a good opportunity wide. He will most certainly go on to make a greater impact on future games, but perhaps he will feel that he should’ve capitalised on tonight’s opportunities.
Portugal struggled to find their form in the first half, and Ivory Coast should have scored. Although they eventually found their stride in the second half, the game ended in a draw. A fair result, given that both teams played cautiously, perhaps too aware of the looming game against Brazil to commit fully to this game.
Here are this reporter’s notes:
Before the match
Didier Drogba, the iconic Ivory Coast striker and captain, has not made the starting line-up. Aruna Dindane, who takes up the attacking role, has enormous shoes to fill… Kolo Toure gets the captain’s armband for this match.
Ivory Coast: Boubacar Barry; Emmanuel Eboue, Kolo Toure, Guy Demel, Siaka Tiene; Gervinho Kouassi, Didier Zokora, Yaya Toure, Cheik Tiote, Salomon Kalou, Aruna Dindane.
Portugal: Eduardo; Paulo Ferreira, Bruno Alves, Ricardo Carvalho, Fabio Coentrao; Pedro Mendes, Raul Meireles, Deco, Cristiano Ronaldo, Danny, Liedson.
Man of the match
- 3rd minute: Both teams keeping their eye on the ball, trying to keep possession while testing the other out.
- 5th minute: Gervinho’s cross doesn’t reach any Ivory Coast players.
Christiano Ronaldo did not score a single goal in the qualifying stages, nor did he get a single assist.
- 6th minute: Didier Zokora gets a yellow card for a foul on Ronaldo. Free kick for Ronaldo doesn’t get past the wall.
- 7th minute: Ronaldo brings the stadium to its feet with a thunderous shot that strikes the side bar. Hearts flutter all over Africa.
Photo: Ivory Coast’s goalkeeper Boubacar Barry watches as a shot by Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo hits the goalpost during a 2010 World Cup Group G soccer match at Nelson Mandela Bay stadium in Port Elizabeth June 15, 2010. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
- 13th minute: Bruno Alves shoves Gervinho in the back, and Ivory Coast gets a free kick. Tiene takes it, but it flies wide of Eduardo’s goal posts. That was Ivory Coast’s first shot at goal.
- 16th minute: Cheik Tiote tries to curl a shot in, but it’s too high. They Elephants are going to have to do better than this to trouble the Portuguese goalkeeper.
Neither side is looking to make a slow start here, as neither can afford a loss – not with a game against Brazil looming. Ivory Coast have made some hard runs and crosses into the Portuguese box, but none have made it to the strikers yet.
- 19th minute: Ronaldo is brought down in front of the Ivorian goal, but the referee waves play on. Demel has an angry exchange with Ronaldo, and both earn a yellow card. Ronaldo did anticipate Demel’s challenge, and Demel perhaps felt that he fell too easily.
Photo: Ivory Coast’s Guy Demel (20) argues with Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo during a 2010 World Cup Group G soccer match at Nelson Mandela Bay stadium in Port Elizabeth June 15, 2010. REUTERS/Oleg Popov
- 24th minute: Rail Meireles gives a free kick away, but Tiene’s shot is too close to Eduardo, who snatches it out of the air.
- 26th minute: Some tough defending from Ricardo Carvalho on Gervinho earns Ivory Coast a corner, but nothing comes of it.
- 28th minute: Immanuel Eboue is brought down by Pedro Mendes. The referee, who had a good view of that tackle, doesn’t give a free kick. That was a vicious tackle by Mendes, and play stops so Eboue can get medical attention. That is a surprising decision, given that the referee saw everything.
Drogba is looking very anxious on the bench. I would be too.
- 32nd minute: Deco does well to beat a defender and tries to thread a pass to Danny, but Demel does well to shepherd the ball to Boubacar Barry, the goalkeeper.
Fabio Coentrao has his hands full with Aruna Dindane. God only knows what would have happened had it been Drogba instead.
- 37th minute: Gervinho’s cross is tidied up and cleared by Bruno Alves.
Ivory Coast is in Portugal’s half a lot, and rightly so. They’ve been the hungrier team, but Portugal’s defence has been up to the task so far.
A Mexican wave goes around the stadium. The crowd here in Port Elizabeth is opting to make their own entertainment as the game slows.
Ivory Coast have done well to keep Christiano Ronaldo quiet, and to limit Deco’s option. They’ve looked the more fluent side in attack, but they have to translate that into shots at goal if they’re going to take anything from this match.
End of the first half.
- 46th minute: Gervinho’s cross is touched to the side
- 48th minute: Dindane’s cross flies tantalisingly close to Salomon Kalou’s head, but he doesn’t make contact. The Elephants mean business.
- 50th minute: Ricardo Carvalho swings a free kick in, but Liedson fails to make anything of it.
Ronaldo is being his usual sullen self. If Ivory Coast keep this up, might we see the Portuguese captain’s tears too?
- 53rd minute: Gervinho, who isn’t the most confident player going forward, gets bundled off the ball inside the Portuguese box.
Is it Gervais or Gervinho? All the team starting line-ups say it’s Gervais, but he has Gervinho on his back.
- 53rd minute: Yaya Toure set Kalou up for a shot, but it’s struck right at Eduardo. The vuvuzelas suddenly get louder.
- 54th minute: Simao comes on for Danny.
- 57th minute: Deco chips in a brilliant cross for Liedson to head in, but it’s a routine save for Boubacar Barry. No trouble with Jabulani in this game, so far.
Ivory Coast will score if they continue like this.
- 59th minute: Gervinho sends a cross from Tiote over the goal posts. He could see that one going in.
- 61st minute: Deco goes off, and Tiago goes on.
Rain starts falling in Port Elizabeth. Play will get sloppier if it doesn’t let up soon.
Drogba is warming up and you can sense the shiver of excitement run through the Nelson Mandela stadium.
- 65th minute: Salomon Kalou makes way for Drogba, and the stadium rises to its feet.
Photo: Ivory Coast’s Didier Drogba (R) plays the ball past Portugal’s Pedro Mendes during a 2010 World Cup Group G soccer match at Nelson Mandela Bay stadium in Port Elizabeth June 15, 2010. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
- 66th minute: Toure sends a shot skittering along the surface, but it’s wide.
- 68th minute: Fabio Coentrao turns a cross from Demel aside for a corner.
Ronaldo fires a shot into goal after the whistle goes. The Ivory Coast players aren’t amused, and I’m inclined to agree. Not very sporting.
- 73rd minute: Liedson tries to volley a shot in, but Zokora gets in the way and clears it. The Ivorian defender goes down clutching his head, but he definitely got kicked in the arm.
The Portuguese have found their stride, and are starting to dominate the game. Drogba’s impact on the game has been minimal, so far.
Kolo Toure goes down with a cramp. The Ivory Coast coach Sven Goran Eriksson grimaces, and he seems to feel Toure’s pain.
- 77th minute: Raul Meireles fires a shot wide.
- 78th minute: Tiene fouls Ronaldo in a good position, and will take the free kick. He drives it high.
- 81st minute: Gervinho comes off for Kader Keita. Gervinho gets a warm embrace from the bench. He’s been a real threat to the Portuguese defence, despite lacking that final touch.
- 83rd minute: Tiote tries to thread a pass through to Dindane, who is caught offside.
- 84th minute: Ruben Amorin makes his senior debut, as Meireles comes off.
- 87th minute: Emmanuel Eboue goes off, and Romaric, who plays his football in Spain with Sevilla, replaces him.
- 89th minute: Ruben Amorin sends a rebound off a free kick high.
Well, it’s been a quiet 15 minutes. Ivory Coast are guilty of letting Portugal find their feet.
- 91st minute: Keita receives a low cross from Drogba, who turns it aside for another cross. That was Drogba’s chance right there.
- 92nd minute: Keita forces a corner as Pedro Mendes headers it out. He’s had quite an impact, has Keita, since coming on.
The game remains goal-less by the end of second half.
By Sipho Hlongwane
Main photo: Ivory Coast’s Didier Drogba (L) looks towards Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo after Ronaldo attempted a free kick during a 2010 World Cup Group G soccer match at Nelson Mandela Bay stadium in Port Elizabeth June 15, 2010. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
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