Friday, 25 June 2010
Brazil Bypass Beautiful Game
Brazil 0 Portugal 0, Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban
Not a great deal to get the pulse racing in Durban as Brazil and Portugal played out a fairly tame scoreless draw. It's the first time Brazil have failed to score in a World Cup match since 1978 and by the end they looked completely devoid of ideas and inspiration.
But Dunga's men duly top the group and they will play the runners-up of Chile's group on Monday. Portugal join them in the last 16 and will play the winners of La Roja's group on Tuesday. Some intriguing matches on the horizon.
Brazil dominated possession in both halves but they looked more threatening in the first period, particularly down the right where Maicon and Alves were combining well. The best chance fell to Nilmar but his flicked shot was expertly turned on to the post by Portuguese keeper, Eduardo. Shortly after, Fabiano was hanging his head in shame as his header failed to find the target from point-blank range.
But we actually saw more of the physical side of A Seleção than the flowing football we have become accustomed to. There were endless niggly fouls and the teams shared 7 yellow cards in total, resulting in 5 minutes of added time at the end of the game. Melo's booking in the opening period was particularly cynical. He was substituted soon after, maybe to ensure he didn't get sent off.
Brazil were lucky to escape worse punishment. Firstly a blatant handball from Juan prevented a flying Ronaldo from bearing down on goal. As the last man he was fortunate to escape with a yellow card. Then Tiago was booked for diving in the box when on another day it could well have been a penalty for Portugal.
Come the second half, Portugal looked the more dangerous team, counter-attacking with pace on the break. Ronaldo was starting to time his runs well and he was freed a couple of times down the left. But the final, killer pass was never forthcoming. When the Real Madrid man was thwarted again by Lucio after another burst at goal the ball did, at last, fall to a team mate. But Meireles' shot on the run produced a fine save from Julio Cesar.
There could have been late drama when, from a Portugal free-kick, Lucio looked to have handled the ball. But there weren't too many appeals from Ronaldo et al and the moment passed. With neither team really pushing hard enough for victory, a draw was a fair result.
When the stakes are higher let's hope we see a better showing from Brazil. One thing Dunga probably learned is that he needs to have his first choice eleven on the pitch. Without Kaka (suspended), Elano (injured) and Robinho (rested) they simply couldn't find a way through a very well-organised Portuguese defence.
After this performance and in a World Cup full of surprises are Brazil still favourites? And if not them, who? Make no mistake, this tournament is wide open.