What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? Portugal and Brazil play to a 0-0 draw in Durban. It was supposedly going to be the match of the tournament, with both teams boasting considerable firepower in attack, and a flowing, graceful style of football. Yeah, right.
It was not to be, with a fitful, savage first half that drew seven yellow cards. There clearly is plenty of bad blood between the two sides – perhaps a case of a family squabble between distant cousins or a matter of former coloniser and colony. In any event, it made for some very poor football.
Dunga has clearly learned his lesson with the sending off of Kaka against Ivory Coast. He didn’t completely lose his head like he did in the game against Ivory Coast, although he was his usual animated self on the side. When it became clear that Felipe Melo and Pepe were out to hurt each other, Dunga withdrew Melo before the end of the first half.
The second half was an extremely poor game, given the amount of talent on the field. It seemed that both coaches reminded their players in the break that they didn’t need to play like their lives depended on it. Brazil had already qualified and Portugal needed only a draw to make it into the second round, and it showed in the second-half play. Brazil especially were flat and couldn’t make those trademark connecting passes in the midfield.
We’ve said it before: Brazil simply have no idea how to play defensive football. Portugal were most lethal when they counter-attacked, leaving the Brazilian defence in their wake. The only thing that stood between Portugal and the goals was Julio Cesar, the Brazilian goalkeeper, and the improbably massive Lucio. The Brazilian captain, who wouldn’t be completely out of place in a rugby front pack, was easily the most outstanding defender for the Brazilians. He harried the Portuguese strikers, but often conceded free kicks because of his physicality.
From their side, Portugal were lacking in attack. They clearly relied on Christiano Ronaldo’s magic to create scoring opportunities, something that made them very predictable.
Brazil were the better team at the end of the day, but only just. They desperately need Kaka to provide that finishing touch. We were also somewhat surprised by Dunga’s decision not to play Robinho. He is very good at crafting chances under pressure from defence, something that Julio Baptista clearly could not do.
The good news for whoever faces Brazil in the last 16 is that if you manage to get in under their skins and punish their sloppy defending by counter-attacking very quickly, they can be defeated.
Portugal have their work cut out for them. I simply don’t see them progressing into the quarter finals with their current form.
In the other, much more interesting game of Group G, Ivory Coast trashed North Korea 3-0. Nobody really believed Ivory Coast would ever repeat Portugal’s drubbing of the team brought to you by the Dear Leader, but we remain firmly sorry that the African team will return home tomorrow. They are way better than Portugal.
Here are the reporter’s notes from Brazil vs Portugal:
Portugal: Eduardo; Bruno Alves, Ricardo Carvalho, Pepe, Fabio Coentrao, Ricardo Costa, Raul Meireles, Tiago, Cristiano Ronaldo, Duda, Danny.
Brazil: Julio Cesar; Maicon, Lucio, Juan, Michel Bastos, Felipe Melo, Gilberto Silva, Dani Alves, Nilmar, Julio Baptista, Luis Fabiano.
Referee: Benito Archundia (Mexico)
Carlos Queiroz makes four changes to the squad that routed North Korea: Duda, Danny, Pepe and Ricardo Costa all start.
Julio Baptista, Daniel Alves and Nilmar start for Brazil in place of Kaka, Elano and Robinho.
Before the match
I have been critical of Christiano Ronaldo’s leadership before. Let’s see how he holds up against what are undoubtedly the toughest opponents in the tournament.
1st minute: Maicon sends a searching cross into the Portuguese area, but it is turned aside for a corner by a defender.
- 6th minute: Dani Alves thumps a ball just wide of Eduardo’s goal.
He’s playing in midfield today, is Dani Alves. The right back position remains firmly under Maicon’s control. Having to choose between the two for right back position is a conundrum many a coach would kill to have.
- 9th minute: Nilmar attempts to control a high cross. His header goes straight up.
- 14th minute: Julio Cesar is brought into play for the first time in this game. He punches away a cross by Coentrao.
- 15th minute: Luis Fabiano goes into the referee’s book. Yellow card for a rash barge into Pepe.
- 16th minute: Dani Alves has another crack at Eduardo; his second attempt of the game is somewhat worse than the first.
- 17th minute: Tiago has an attempt at Julio Cesar but can’t shoot decently. It was a very difficult shot to attempt.
- 20th minute: A good tackle by Juan on Christiano Ronaldo. Defenders don’t nearly get as much credit as they deserve.
- 23rd minute: Brazil have come to life a little in front of the Portuguese goal. Fabiano’s shot is blocked for a corner.
- 24th minute: That was unbelievably stupid by Juan. He sticks a hand out to stop the ball, and is very lucky to only get a yellow card.
- 24th minute: The Portuguese players clearly think there was a case for a red card there. Duda goes into the book for protesting a little too vociferously.
I am sympathetic to the Portuguese. Ronaldo was clearly off and away, and you rather fancy his chances in a one-on-one situation.
- 30th minute: Nilmar comes within inches of scoring. His shot is batted away by Eduardo, and it strikes the upright and ricochets back into the field.
- 30th minute: Tiago gets a yellow card for diving in the Brazilian penalty area.
- 31st minute: Maicon has another squiz at goal. It’s a far better shot, but not on target.
I wouldn’t describe this as a surly affair, but it isn’t amicable either. Some residual bad feeling between former colonial master and colony, perhaps?
- 39th minute: Maicon crosses into the Portuguese corner. Eduardo doesn’t clear the ball and Luis Fabiano smacks the ball down with his head, the attempt whizzing just wide of Eduardo’s goal.
- 39th minute: Pepe gets a yellow card for stamping harshly on Felipe Melo’s left Achilles’ tendon.
- 41st minute: Ronaldo gets a shot from distance but it bounces straight into Cesar’s arms.
- 43rd minute: Melo and Pepe have their own little squabble going on here. Melo goes into the book for barging into Pepe.
- 44th minute: Early substitution Felipe Melo, who has clearly gone quite insane. Josue comes on in his place.
Dunga has finally learned his lesson.
- 45th minute: More yellow cards! Fabio Coentrao goes into the book for a tackle from behind on Dani Alves.
- 46th minute: Portugal make a counter-attack and Ronaldo finally takes the shot from a distance. That would not have beaten Cesar, but it goes wide in any case.
End of the first half.
Photo: Brazil’s coach Dunga (C) gestures to his team during their 2010 World Cup Group G soccer match against Portugal at Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban June 25, 2010. REUTERS/Christian Charisius
And we’re off to the second half. Hopefully both coaches knocked some sense into their players.
- 48th minute: Ronaldo times a run to perfection, but gets caught out on the side of the penalty area. He tries to find Danny with a cross, but Lucio kicks it out for a corner.
Ronaldo has been bolder in attack in this second half.
- 52nd minute: Free kick to Portugal. Ronaldo lines up to take the free kick but it goes high after taking a substantial deflection off Pepe’s boot.
- 54th minute: Simao comes on for Duda.
- 56th minute: a very optimistic shot by Michel Bastos, from a considerable way out. It goes wide.
- 57th minute: Fabiano headers towards goal, Eduardo snatches it easily out of the air.
- 58th minute: Corner to Portugal. Simao takes it; his cross is cleared by Fabiano.
- 58th minute: Simao has his first attempt at goal. Cesar saves it, but not before fumbling the ball.
- 59th minute: That was more like it. Ronaldo drives forward and beats two defenders before Lucio muscles him off the ball and kicks it away, but only into the path of Raul Meireles. Cesar only just gets a touch on the ball, denying Portugal the lead.
Cesar took a heavy knock to his back making that save, and play stops so he can be attended to.
- 63rd minute: Corner to Portugal. Simao heads the ball down but not past the Brazilian defenders.
- 64th minute: Pepe comes off for Pedro Mendes.
- 65th minute: Michel Bastos really needs to work on his long-range shooting. Another of his attempts goes wide.
- 67th minute: Crude challenge by Lucio on Ronaldo. The free kick is taken by Ronaldo and fizzes out.
- 72nd minute: Brazil have been reduced to the odd stab at goal from distance. Daniel Alves is the latest to make an attempt that goes wide.
The aggression levels have certainly been toned down in the second half, but so has the passion and flair.
- 77th minute: Ronaldo gets a shot away under pressure from Juan, and it goes out.
Julio Baptista has been taken down in a gigantic tackle by Ricardo Carvalho. It was fair play, but a huge hit nonetheless.
- 81st minute: Michel Bastos takes Simao out with a vicious jab. Free kick to Portugal, which comes to nothing.
- 82nd minute: Baptista comes off for Ramirez. Baptista is still wincing…
- 83rd minute: Raul Meireles makes way for Miguel Veloso.
- 85th minute: Grafite comes on for Fabiano.
- 87th minute: Brazil have a corner. The initial delivery by Dani Alves is poor, but he gets the ball again and finds Lucio on the opposite end of the penalty area, who headers powerfully straight at Eduardo.
- 90th minute: Dani Alves makes an attempt from distance, and once again it’s not on target.
- 91st minute: Ramirez has an attempt that takes a deflection off Bruno Alves’s back and Eduardo is forced to stretch himself to the limit to make the save.
- 94th minute: Portugal are making a last, gasping attempt to sink the Brazilians. Danny collides heavily with Cesar and needs a bit of treatment.
- 95th minute: Portugal get a corner.
End of the match.
By Sipho Hlongwane
Photo: Portugal’s Danny collides with Brazil’s goalkeeper Julio Cesar during a goal attempt in their 2010 World Cup Group G soccer match at Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban June 25, 2010. REUTERS/Christian Charisius