The most-awaited encounter of Group G between Brazil and Portugal ended in a goalless stale-mate as both teams were more than happy to secure a single point and a place in Round two. Brazil managed to finish a group game in a World Cup without scoring a goal, the last occurrence of which, was 32 years back.
With the entire world waiting in tremendous apprehension, the biggest fixture of the World Cup so far, took center stage at Durban, South Africa. Brazil, the five-time World Champions had never lost a football game in the continent of Africa and they wanted to continue with the mean streak. Portugal, on the other hand, needed just a point to sail to the next round and possessed no lofty ambitions of beating Brazil in this mouth-watering final group G encounter.
With the stadium packed to its capacity and the vuvuzelas at their exasperating best, the world awaited a cracking game to unfold between the giants of football. What resulted was a sad game of awfully dreary football with each team competing and trying to outdo the other in downright tedium. The Brazilian train had left their ‘creativity’ compartment on the bench and the players on the pitch were simply not good enough to penetrate the rock-solid Portugal defence. Portugal, quite understandably, decided to defend the entire match keeping their talisman as the only striker ahead of their defending panel.
The first half saw occasional bursts of speed from both the channels by the Brazilian full-backs giving their strikers an occasional taste of the goal or rather just a smell of it. The Portuguese keeper made an excellent save, the best in the world cup so far, when Nilmar popped up unmarked five yards from goal and attempted to unsettle the monotone of the proceedings.
The second half started with Cristiano Ronaldo left to sprint into a lot of space down the left-hand channel of the South American half, but his attempt at a cross was exceptionally cleared away by the ever-so-reliable Lucio. The mesmerizing Real Madrid playmaker was involved a few minutes later in trying to do what he is best at – scoring from free-kicks. However, keeping with the insipidity of the day’s happenings, he hit it straight into his own player, Pepe.
Four minutes before the hour mark, Dani Alves, with some tasty trickery managed to launch a neat cross into the opponent’s box but a back-pedaling Fabiano launched a header straight into the hands of the Portuguese keeper. By now, the game had reached the nadir and the supporters were crying out for some creativity while the vuvuzelas, quite annoyingly for some, kept on buzzing during the football match.
In between all the depression, the Portuguese captain rose into prominence, sped past Juan, and threatened to send in a shot past Cesar, but Lucio managed to put his foot through to clear the ball into the path of Raul Morales. The man with more tattoos than the number of people in Vatican City, poked the ball wide and requested the scorers to carry on with their prolonged nap.
Meanwhile, Ronaldo was a one man diving show on the field, providing wholesome entertainment to the bored-to-death crowd. Lucio tried his best to create an opening into the Portuguese defence by making darting runs into their half, but slowly retreating back every time realizing that he didn’t have the basic creativity to achieve the unattainable. Gilberto Silva played it safe as he had a thorough understanding of his nonexistent ingenuity. He never attempted a single through-ball in the entire duration of the match.
With eleven minutes left on the clock, Carvalho was involved in a crunching tackle with Julio ‘The Beast’ Baptista – as if we hadn’t seen enough of ‘The Ugly’ side of football. Baptista was substituted after doing absolutely nothing for the cause of Brazilian football, or World Peace in general.
Dani Alves, totally oblivious of his role of a midfielder in the team, kept on trying things which probably baffled the entire Alves household. Three minutes before time, he did manage to deliver a left-footed cross to Lucio in the Portuguese box, but, the score-line was never in danger of changing.
The match ended with an injury-time Ramirez strike that took a wicked deflection before making Eduardo perform some customary acrobatics to save the day for Portugal.
Stalemate – it ended, boredom – it caused, “Dear lord, don’t do this to us, again” – it prompted.
TheHardTakle’s Player Of The Match:
The Brazilian captain did everything possible to deny all the chances created by Ronaldo and his men. The Inter Milan man played with determination and never even went close to making any silly error, ably leading from the front or rather back.
TheHardTackle’s Referee Report Card:
Benito Archundia (Mexico) – B+
The referee didn’t have anything to do in the match. We give him a B+ as a show of gratitude towards his capability of staying awake even after ninety dull minutes of football.
BRAZIL 0-0 PORTUGAL
Venue: Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban
Brazil Line-up: Cesar, Maicon, Lucio, Juan, Bastos, Felipe Melo (Jusie 44’), Gilberto Silva, Dani Alves, Nilmar, Luis Fabiano (Grafite 85’), Julio Baptista (Ramirez 83’)
Coution: Juan, Melo, Fabiano
Sent off: None
Portugal line-up: Eduardo, Ricardo Carvalho, Ricardo Costa, Bruno Alves, Fabio Coentrao, Pepe (Pedro Mendes 54′), Tiago, Danny, Raul Meireles (Veloso 84′), Duda (Simao 54′), Christiano Ronaldo
Coution: Coentrao, Pepe, Tiago, Duda
Sent off: None