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Portugal 0-0 Ivory Coast World Cup 2010 Group G

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The much anticipated Group G matches, which is none other than the proverbial Group of Death of World Cup 2010 have commenced with the start of the Ivory Coast vs Portugal match. This match was also the first truly big game in the Group Stage in the World Cup 2010 so far. The big match atmosphere could be felt (heard to be more precise) from the sheer loudness of the sounds from the much criticized and also equally admired vuvuzelas. This match is crucial for both teams as if they are defeated or even draw this game, it would be an uphill battle for both teams to go through from the Group of Death as they need to overcome Brazil as well as the unknown quantity DPRK (North Korea) in which there’s no guarantee that the match with the East Asians to be a walk in the park. Just like all matches in this World Cup barring Germany’s match against Australia, goals come at a premium and this match ended in a disappointing 0-0 draw. However, despite the deceptively boring and unspectacular scoreline, this match was filled with its own intrigues as well as not short of various controversies throughout the match.

The Portuguese still have yet to overcome their old problem of shortage of credible goal poaching striker. Even with the recent naturalization of the Sporting Lisbon favorite Liedson, he was almost anonymous throughout the match and threats of scoring only come from Cristiano Ronaldo, the captain and star man of the Portuguese team. The most expensive player in the world was deployed on the right flank, however, unlike the wasted Samuel Eto’o in the Cameroon vs Japan match, Ronaldo was given a license to roam all over the pitch (free role) and thus he was everywhere on the pitch, although mostly on the right and on the middle. Meanwhile, for Ivory Coast, Didier Drogba, who is half fit started on the bench and Salomon Kalou was tasked of deputizing for Drogba alongside the young livewire Gervinho.

At the start of the match, it seemed that Ivory Coast was out to scrutinize and rough-up Cristiano Ronaldo as in the first 20 minutes or so, he was constantly heavily marked and sent tumbled with real pushes and shoves from the Ivorian players which culminated in his altercation with Guy Demel in which both players were booked. Ivory Coast dominated the match more in the first half due to the brilliance of the youngster Gervinho.

Rain started to fall in the second half, marking the first time it rains in a match in World Cup 2010 in Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. Both teams still lack the cutting edge, with Ivory Coast especially threatening through Gervinho but nobody to finish his hard work and silky skills. Didier Drogba finally made the much anticipated entry at the 65th minute replacing his deputy Kalou and he was greeted by blows of vuvuzelas from the stands. Strangely, instead of augmenting Ivory Coast’s attack by having Drogba to finish the excellent penetrations of Ivory Coast as mentioned above, right after Drogba entered the fray, Ivory Coast was plunged into a plethora of problems as well as the end of controversies.

First, for unknown reasons, Ivory Coast number 9 Tiote spent a long time on the bench seemingly adjusting his boots and also Kolo Toure suffered a bout of cramp and had to be treated with some stretching and some ethyl chloride from the physios. All the while when those things happened, Ivory Coast played with 10 men and it’s curious on why the ref would allow the play to continue like that. I think the ref should have made more stoppages for the long treatments and compensate it by adding the lost time as injury time. The injury time was only for 3 minutes, and had the ref made proper stoppages for the cramps and stuff, the injury time could have easily last to up to 6 minutes at least. Also, it seems  strange that the referee obliged so much with Portugal’s cry baby hand raising requesting for decisions favoring them while leaving Ivory Coast to play with 10 men when their players went down injured for example.

It was also a curious case on why the excellent Gervinho who was pivotal in Ivory Coast’s attacks throughout the game was pulled off at the 81st minute, ight after Cristiano Ronaldo narrowly missed his  free kick. I feel that had the ball was not Jabulani, Ronaldo would have scored the goal. Perhaps realizing this, Sven Goran Eriksson decided to replace Gervvinho with the defensive player Kader Keita to just try to hold on to the 0-0 scoreline and focus on the next games rather than taking risks going forward and possibly concede a goal and be defeated which would put their World Cup destiny in jeopardy.

The injury time was pulsating as both teams especially Ivory coast tried to score the winning goal. At the last minute of the injury time, there was another referee controversy. Ivory Coast’s Ti Ene was down with a cramp, while Ivory Coast got a last minute corner. However, Ivory Coast decided to play with a short corner, and as it happened, the ref blew for full time. Many would argue that the ref should have allowed the attack to end before signaling the full time whistle as Ivory Coast potentially could score a dramatic winning goal there. Perhaps, the ref assumed that Ti Ene was faking his cramps? Who knows, but in my opinion, had he allowed the corner to continue, and especially assuming that Ivory Coast decided to launch a long corner instead, there would be a repeat of an incident long time ago in a past World Cup in which I think Brazil scored from a last minute corner but the ref blew the final whistle as the corner was kicked. Thus, it might have stirred even more controversy and good thing that Ivory Coast decided to play a short corner.

Nevertheless, both teams are safe at the moment and now they have to focus on Brazil and the DPRK and on paper, they have a great chance to progress as they only need to get three more points. But one of them will be knocked out assuming that they all win against the DPRK but Brazil wins all their three matches. But don’t underestimate the DPRK as they are more than capable of springing surprises in this World Cup and don’t bet against them surviving Group G to go through to the knockout rounds! Beware Ivory Coast and Portugal!

Written by cp

16/06/2010 at 00:36

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