Stars dampen Durban party spirit
Most eagerly awaited clash turns out to be a dreary affair at ‘the Moses’
FOR a clash that had been hyped since the draw was made last December, Brazil and Portugal delivered some rather dreary football in a goalless draw at the Moses Mabhida Stadium last night.
With both sides virtually assured of a spot in the last 16, they seemed more than happy to kick chunks out of each other instead of producing some of the excellent play that marked their previous group matches.
Durban, which had come to a virtual standstill yesterday, was left feeling somewhat hollow after getting used to goals or drama in the previous four matches at “the Moses”.
Star-laden as both sides were, no one really stood out in a game dominated by the whistle of trigger-finger referee, Benito Archundia of Mexico.
The man in the middle flashed seven yellow cards in the first half alone, such was the feisty edge between the two Portuguese-speaking nations.
Cristiano Ronaldo, whose very first touch was greeted with an almighty roar, cut a very frustrated figure as he was stranded upfield while his team-mates sought himout with ambitious balls over the immaculate Lucio and Alex in central defence.
Ronaldo had a few shots from range but, in the main, the world’s costliest player had an evening of few opportunities.
At the other end, Luis Fabiano could not add to his two goals in the competition, as he was left frustrated by a lack of service.
Without Kaka and Robinho, the five-time champions looked a rather average unit, and they will be happy to welcome back the Real Madrid playmaker.
Right-back Maicon and stand-in winger Dani Alves came close for the Brazilians in a niggly first half-hour, while Tiago’s ambitious volley from outside the area was Portugal’s best effort.
Nilmar then hit the bar with a left-foot shot after some slack defence by the Portuguese, and Tiago earned himself one of the many cautions for a pathetic dive at the other end.
Maicon tried a shot from almost the corner in a bid to liven things up, but it was the respective coaches who were working up more of a sweat.
Dunga and Carlos Quieroz both had reasons to spring out of their seats, as both sides added to the poor show by showing scant regard for fair play.
Felipe Melo was the worst culprit, handling a good-looking ball over the top for Ronaldo. Quieroz — and half the stadium — thought Melo should have seen red, but he survived that before being taken off just before the break.
Nilmar showed some neat touches, but his final act let him down — much to the chagrin of the pacing Dunga on the sidelines.
Fabiano headed just wide from a Maicon cross, before Ronaldo scuffed his first shot on target.
The introduction of Simao for the Portuguese livened up proceedings, but the opener was still not forthcoming.
A determined run by Ronaldo on 60 minutes gave Raul Meireles a half-chance, but Inter Milan stopper Julio Cesar dived in bravely to prevent the goal.
Simao continued his energetic display, and the crowd rose expectantly whenhefound Ronaldo in the box on 76 minutes.
But his shadow for the entire game, the peerless Lucio, was on hand to provide the pressure as Ronaldo’s shot went over the top.
Ramires had a shot deflected towards the top corner right at the death, but Eduardo was alert enough to parry it away and seal the goalless draw that no one had foreseen.
With both sides through to the last 16, one can only hope that the do-or-die atmosphere of knock-out football brings out the best in them. Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, centre, competes for the ball with Brazil’s Gilberto Silva, left, and Brazil’s Daniel Alves during the World Cup group G soccer match between Portugal and Brazil in Durban yesterday.