Stars dampen Dur­ban party spirit

Most ea­gerly awaited clash turns out to be a dreary af­fair at ‘the Moses’

Weekend Witness - - Sport - LUN­GANI ZAMA at the Moses Mab­hida Sta­dium

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.

PHOTO: AP

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