Portugal And Ivory Coast Open With Tie

Drogba nearly nets dramatic late winner in stoppage time


Hours before the match FIFA cleared Ivory Coast captain Didier Drogba to use a protective cast as he looked to come back from a fractured arm suffered in a warm-up game on June 4. The Chelsea FC forward started the match on the bench and entered with 24 minutes remaining.  

Drogba nearly wrote a storybook ending to the match when he ran onto a through ball down the left side of the box in stoppage time. However, with the goalkeeper closing in, the team captain decided to cross the ball with his service finding no takers.

In a drab first half with few scoring opportunities, Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo created the best chance when he struck the post in the 11th minute on a long distance shot. After cutting inside on his marker, he blasted a right-footed attempt from 35 yards out which beat the goalkeeper but smacked against the left post.

The African team was irked by Ronaldo’s diving antics in the first half and defender Guy Demel confronted him in the 21st minute. Uruguayan referee Jorge Larrionda gave both Demel and Ronaldo a yellow card.

Aside from a 30-yard attempt with ten minutes remaining, Ronaldo disappeared from the match after the break and so did the Portuguese attack. The Ivory Coast back line was rarely tested with the only shot on goal by Portugal in the second half coming on a 58th minute header from Liedson.

The Elephants were the more adventurous side in the second half with Gervinho and Solomon Kalou providing the inspiration. Kalou nearly connected on a header in the 49th minute and five minutes later could have done better with a wide open shot from the penalty arc.

Gervinho schooled Portuguese defender Ricardo Carvalho two minutes after the break before firing a shot across the goal mouth which was deflected for a corner kick. His header from a favorable position in the 60thminute finished off target.  

Sven Goran Eriksson’s side buzzed around the Portuguese penalty area in stoppage time and nearly netted a winner on Drogba’s run. It was Eriksson's first competitive match at the helm of the Ivory Coast after 74 days in charge.

Up next for the Ivory Coast is Brazil while Portugal will look for all three points against group minnows North Korea.

Ivory Coast (4-3-3): #1 Boubacar Barry - #17 Siaka Tiene, #5 Didier Zokora, #4 Kolo Toure, #20 Guy Demel - #9 Cheik Tiote, #19 Yaya Toure, #21 Emmanuel Eboue (89’ #13 Romaric) - #8 Salomon Kalou (66’ #11 Didier Drogba), #15 Aruna Dindane, #10 Gervinho (82’ #18 Kader Keita)

Portugal (4-3-3): #1 Eduardo - #23 Fabio Coentrao, #2 Bruno Alves, #6 Ricardo Carvalho, #3 Paulo Ferreira - #16 Raul Meireles (85’ #17 Ruban Amorim), #8 Pedro Mendes, #20 Deco (62’ #19 Tiago) - #7 Cristiano Ronaldo, #10 Danny (55’ #11 Simao), #9 Liedson

Misconduct Summary:

CIV – Zokora 7’

CIV – Demel 21’

POR – Ronaldo 21’

Referee: Jorge Larrionda (Uruguay)