Portugal 0-0 Brazil
Brazil and Portugal progressed to the Round of 16 as group winners and runners up respectively. The build up to his game promised us an exciting battle of two teams who knew how to entertain. What we got instead was perhaps the worst ninety minutes of football yet seen at this World Cup.
Brazil started promisingly. Dani Alves, replacing the injured Elano in the starting line up, flashed a bouncing shot just wide of the target.
Portugal were finding it difficult to establish themselves in possession. Brazil vigorously pressed Portugal no matter where Carlos Queiroz’s side had control of the football.
Benfica fullback Coentrão, who was catching the attention of the world’s media with some impressive displays against Côte d’Ivoire and North Korea, once again attacked down the left before sending a cross deep into the penalty area. Internazionale goalkeeper Julio Cesar slapped the incoming football as far as Tiago on the edge of the penalty area. Tiago passed to Ronaldo whose effort was blocked.
Cristiano Ronaldo and his teammates were finding it difficult to penetrate the experienced and accomplished Brazilian defence. Tiago’s sliced volley indicative of Portugal’s lack of attacking prowess so far.
Portugal might have breached the wall of Brazilian defenders in the 25th minute. A long pass over the top for Cristiano Ronaldo was deliberately diverted by the arm of Juan. The referee showed the Roma centreback the yellow card and was immediately accosted by three Portuguese players. Benito Archunia did not appreciate the advice of Duda, and added the midfielder’s name to his burgeoning notebook.
Brazil had the advantage in terms of possession and territory and came the closest to opening the scoring in the first half when Nilmar’s close range shot was pushed superbly on to the post by Eduardo. Luís Fabiano supplied an elegant chip for the Villarreal youngster, but Nilmar was unable to convert.
Fabiano himself should have scored. A terrific cross from Maicon on the right was met by the head of the Sevilla striker. Fabiano headed into the ground and wide. His reaction, to lie face down on the turf, was telling.
Brazil should have entered the break with a lead but instead found themselves level with Portugal in a biting encounter, Benito Archunia producing seven yellow cards in the opening forty-five minutes.
If the first half was uninspiring, the second was disheartening. Neither side could muster a prolonged period of pressure in the second half despite a bright start from Cristiano Ronaldo. The Real Madrid forward woke a sleeping audience with a blistering run from just inside the Brazilian half, taking the ball as far as the byline. Lúcio was at hand to tackle Ronado but his sliding challenge acted as a cross for Raul Meireles who had broken forward into the Brazilian penalty area. Meireles’ poor effort was poked at Julio Cesar from an angle.
It had appeared as if Ronaldo was going to seize control of the game and test Brazil. This was not to be, over the next forty-five minutes the Portuguese’s only meaningful contribution was a succession of poorly executed free-kicks.
The second half petered out with no sign of a goal at either end until stoppage time. The decision of the referee to award five minutes of extra time was a questionable one but it did provide Brazil with their only chances in the second half.
Ramires, who was brought on to replace Julio Baptista, tried a shot at goal from twenty-five yards. His attempt was subjected to a wicked deflection which almost caught Eduardo out. The Portuguese goalkeeper had been dependable throughout the Group Stage and had to reach to fend off the dipping football.
The draw allows both sides to progress at the expense of the Côte d’Ivoire, who beat North Korea 3-0. Both Brazil and Portugal will certainly be watching with interest tonight as Chile face the European Champions, Spain, for top spot in Group H. Should Spain qualify as runners up then, in Spain versus Brazil, we may see the kind of breathtaking football that this match failed to deliver to us and the capacity crowd in Durban.