Group G for the 2010 world cup has Brazil, Portugal, Ivory Coast and Democratic Republic of Korea. It has been rightly called the ‘Group of Death’ since it will see at least one and possibly 2 big footballing nations go out without reaching the knockout stages of the tournament. Many believe that there is only one place is up for grabs in this group, since it is impossible to conceive the possibility of favourites Brazil going out in the group stages. Just like it is being taken for granted that Brazil will go through, it is also almost certain in everyone’s minds that Democratic Republic of Korea will surely not go through. So that leaves Ivory Coast and Portugal, the two countries that play each other today to battle out it out for that precious spot in the knockouts that Brazil have available to lose.
Both teams therefore, have everything to play for. It seems almost certain that whoever loses will most probably see their 2010 World Cup campaign come to an end. Ivory Coast are Africa’s best hope to advance further in the competition while were Portugal to lose, the 2010 World Cup would lose one of its major stars in Cristiano Ronaldo. Lets hope the fear of losing doesn’t dictate the game and that we don’t end up with the very likely 1-1 scoreline.
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Ivory Coast’s manager Sven-Goran Eriksson knows all about the pain of losing to Portugal at the World Cup. He might want to take revenge as last World Cup, the Swede was in-charge of England and lost on penalties to Portugal which subsequently cost him his job. He took up the Ivory Coast job after the Elephants shock exit at the quarter-finals stage in the African Cup of Nations in January. Eriksson says that he has been focused on organisation than revolution and will look to unleash the pace of Solomon Kalou along with the talented Gervinho, who was named as the best African player in the French League last year. The news of Didier Drogba being allowed to play with a protective cast in today’s match must have renewed confidence in the squad and is a definite boost.
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Portugal have had to deal with injuries to key players and an unconvincing qualification run. Their ‘golden-generation’ is now a thing of the past but they do still have the world’s most expensive player and undoubtedly the world’s most-eye-catching player in Cristiano Ronaldo. He hasn’t been in great for form for his country but everyone is aware of what he can achieve if he hits form which is also like ‘Ketchup‘ I am guessing. The team is managed by Carlos Queiroz, who did get Ronaldo to play at his very best when he was at Manchester United. Another great advantage that Carlos might have because of his time at Manchester United is that he would know Chelsea’s Didier Drogba and Solomon Kalou’s game to a T. Portugal have managed to reach at least the semis in three out of the last five major tournaments and have a team brimming with talent. The defense is strong with Ricardo Carvalho, Bruno Alves and Pepe while going forward Cristiano Ronaldo, Simao and Leidson can be quite a handful. Zenit St. Petersburg’s midfielder Danny Miguel is another player who could make the difference for Portugal.
“To go through would be a success from a group like that. If we can reach the quarter-final I think everyone should be thinking it’s a great success from an African team, for the Ivory Coast. That’s the first target.”- Sven Goran-Eriksson, Ivory Coast manager
“The semi-final is not our aim, it’s our ambition. We want to get there. To have the ambition to be champions we don’t need to win all our games. We need to be running ahead of Ivory Coast, then North Korea and thenBrazil. That’s how we have to approach it.” – Carlos Queiroz, Portugal manager
Stars to Watch Out For
Ivory Coast: Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure, Solomon Kalou, Gervinho (Gervais Kouassi)
Portugal: Cristiano Ronaldo, Liédson da Silva Muniz, Simão, Alves
Didier Drogba hit six goals in five appearances for Ivory Coast during qualifying.
During qualification for South Africa, Cristiano Ronaldo failed to score or assist a single goal for Portugal in seven appearances.