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FIFA World Cup: Brazil - Portugal play out drab goalless draw

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brazil_portugal2.jpgPortugal confirmed their progress to the Round of 16 of the FIFA World Cup after a drab goalless draw against Brazil. What was considered to be a marque affair was in the end an utter disappointment, with neither side ever lighting up the night.

Brazil's manager Dunga opted to rest Robinho for this match having already booked a spot into the Last 16, bringing in Nilmar in place of the former Real Madrid forward. Kaka also missed the match through suspension due to the controversial red card shown to him in the previous game against the Ivory Coast. Roma strongman Julio Baptista took his place in the midfield. Dani Alves meanwhile came on for the injured Elano on the right side of the front three.

Portugal decided to start with Cristiano Ronaldo in the role of a centre-forward and a five man midfield. That meant there was no room for either Hugo Almeida or Liedson. Simao also missed out, with Danny stepping in for the experienced winger, while Duda and Pepe also came into the starting line-up. Manager Carlos Queiroz knew his side only needed a draw to book their spot in the next round, while even a loss would still leave Ivory Coast needing a 9-goal swing to progress.

Brazil started the brighter of the two sides, easily controlling possession and probing the Portuguese defence. Dani Alves nearly managed to grab an early breakthrough when his strike from 25 yards out went just wide of the post. Portugal slowly started getting their rhythm together, but neither side was able to create a clear-cut opportunity, until Luis Fabiano crossed to an on-rushing Nilmar just inside the six-yard box. Nilmar had started the move inside his own half and ran over 60 yards to get into position, and his effort forced Eduardo into a crucial reaction save to push the ball against the frame of the goal, with the rebound cleared by Ricardo Carvalho.

The rest of the half was constrained in midfield, with Brazil passing the ball around but not showing any urgency. An ill-tempered first half meant that the most action came from the referee, who showed 7 yellow cards due to some horribly late tackling and acts of simulation. Juan was lucky to stay on the pitch in the 25th minute when he handled an overhead pass targeting Ronaldo. The referee decided that a yellow card was sufficient, but it was apparent that the defender knew he had no chance against Ronaldo's pace and denied a clear goal-scoring opportunity. Felipe Melo was taken off in the 44th minute by Dunga to prevent him getting sent off. Both the sides went into the break  with the score at 0-0, but more importantly still had all their players on the pitch. Brazil, for all their possession, lacked their usual speed up-front, while Portugal seemed intent on catching Brazil on the break.

brazil_portugal1.jpgThe second half started slowly and was again largely a battle in midfield. Portugal's first chance of note in the match came on the hour mark. Having won possession, the Portuguese released Cristiano Ronaldo. The Real Madrid player was isolated by his side and took on a throng of Brazilian defenders, beating Juan to enter the penalty area. Lucio managed to take the ball off him, but Ronaldo's insistent pressure forced Lucio into passing the ball across his own penalty area into the path of Raul Meireles. Meireles seemed surprised to find the ball reach him, and his shot was easily parried by Julio Cesar into the side-netting.

From then on the second half lacked any real action, with both sides clearly having been told by their managers to tone down their tackling and ensure no player picks up an unnecessary suspension for the next match. Portugal did try to take the game to the Brazilians on a couple of occasions, but were disappointing in the final third. Cristiano Ronaldo, in particular, was a major let-down. Ronaldo was frustrated at the lack of support, and despite taking over half a dozen shots at goal (most of which were from well outside the 18-yard box) never forced Julio Cesar into making a save.

Dunga was animated inside his technical area for long periods, frustrated by his side's performance in the second half. Brazil did try to get forward more often towards the end, and Eduardo was forced into a great save in the last minute of normal time. Ramires struck yet another weak long distance effort, which took a wicked deflection off a Portuguese defender and nearly looped over Eduardo.

That was the last bit of action in what proved to be a very, very disappointing match. The spectacle that many expected was never on show, and the match would at best be remembered only for the 7 yellow cards in the first half. The number of cautions may in fact have been the reason for a dull second half. The majority of the shots were taken from outside the penalty areas, and the goalkeepers had an easy 90 minutes barring a handful of occasions. Neither side had the cutting edge, and the crossing was particularly woeful from both teams.

Another aspect that may have played on both sides minds was that neither knew who would win Group H. Brazil and Portugal would be looking to avoid an early meeting with Spain in the next round, but with the European champions not even assured of a spot in the next round, neither side had any real motivation to finish top of their group.

Portugal, despite their 7-0 demolition of North Korea, have not yet shown that they have what it takes against the best sides. The experiment of having Ronaldo as the sole-striker tonight was a clear failure, although Carlos Queiroz would be delighted with his side's defence which easily handled anything Brazil threw at them.

Brazil probably wouldn't look too much into this match, having key players absent. They clearly missed the pace of Robinho and Kaka in attack with Julio Baptista having no impact on the match whatsoever and Nilmar failing to leave a serious mark. Dani Alves would have hoped that he could put in a performance to get him a spot in the starting line-up, but was unfortunate to see that none of his teammates put in as much effort as him.

The Teams:

Portugal (4-5-1): Eduardo; Bruno Alves, Carvalho, Coentrao, Costa; Pepe (Mendes 64'), Meireles (Veloso 84'), Tiago, Duda (Simao 54'), Danny; Ronaldo

Brazil (4-4-2): Cesar; Juan, Lucio, Bastos, Maicon; Melo (Josue 44'), Silva, Dani Alves, Nilmar; Fabiano (Grafite 85'), Baptista (Ramires 82')

Final Score: Portugal 0-0 Brazil

Check out the Points Table

Also Read:

Ivory Coast 3-0 North Korea - Match Report

Photo by 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa

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