Although much has been said about the attacking power of Côte d'Ivoire and Portugal, the two Group G giants proved themselves solid at the back, cancelling each other out in a scoreless draw in Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth.
The first half at Nelson Mandela Stadium was one of the most even of the tournament so far, with both teams pushing forward but giving no quarter in defence or in the tackle. Côte d'Ivoire’s attacking triumvirate of Gervinho, Salomon Kalou and Aruna Dindane confirmed themselves to be full of pace and movement, but it was Portugal’s own fleet-footed forward, Cristiano Ronaldo, who had the best chance of the opening period.
The Real Madrid man almost produced something out of nothing in the 11th minute when he smacked an unstoppable dipping shot off the outside of the post to the goalkeeper’s right from 30 yards. But the Elephants were not fazed by the Germany 2006 semi-finalists, and shortly after Ronaldo’s attempt, Siaka Tiene zipped a free-kick just past the post before Ismael Tiote fizzed a shot over the bar.
If the two teams engaged in trench warfare for the rest of the first half, the second half burst into life immediately. Two minutes after the break, Gervinho’s shot was flapped at by goalkeeper Eduardo, and from the resulting corner, Tiate rose but could not get a clean header in. Half-chances came fast and furious then, with Gervinho’s wayward header from Tiote’s cross on the hour the pick of the bunch. The introduction of Didier Drogba in the 66th minute promise to up the ante another notch, but as a heavy rainshower settled on the pitch, the match lost some steam.
With the clock running down, Portugal went close with long-range efforts by Raul Meireles and Ronaldo, while Kolo Toure might have done better at the far post with a header. Then, in injury time, the west Africans finally fashioned an opportunity for Drogba. However, the big Chelsea man – who had clutched his injured arm throughout his time on the pitch –hooked Kader Keita’s through-ball off target.