Since 4 December 2009, when the Final Draw dictated the groups here at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, Portugal versus Brazil in Group G has been among the most eagerly anticipated games of all 48 first-phase encounters. With two rounds of matches already played, that feeling remains firmly intact, with the Portuguese still yet to seal qualification and top spot at stake for both sides.
And though 25 June’s game in Durban is only the pair’s second meeting at the finals of the global game’s biggest showpiece, the two nations’ shared history makes it very much a match between familiar foes.
Not only are Brazil and Portugal the first- and third-placed sides in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, the teams both go into this heavyweight duel on the back of two of the best performances so far at South Africa 2010. A Verde e Amarelo put in a clinical display when sinking Côte d’Ivoire 3-1, while Carlos Queiroz’s charges cut loose to record a 7-0 victory over Korea DPR.
A Seleção’s 100 per cent start has already guaranteed them a Round of 16 berth and Dunga’s men need just a draw to secure top spot. For Portugal, whose goal difference is nine goals better than the Ivorians, the only way they can exit the competition is via defeat against Brazil and enough goals from Didier Drogba and Co against Korea DPR to make up the shortfall.
Missing from the big occasion will be Kaka, suspended after receiving a red card against the Elephants – this after a fine performance which featured two assists. Fellow attacking midfielder Elano, scorer of two goals so far, is an injury doubt as is Portugal’s Brazil-born schemer Deco.
Given the attacking bent of Brazilian right-back Maicon and Portugal’s left-back Fabio Coentrao, a high-octane contest of skill and lung power is sure to ensue on Friday. Indeed, the Inter Milan defender has already got off the mark at the finals with a stunning strike against Korea DPR, while the Benfica flyer was an integral part of Portugal’s demolition of the same opponents.
0 — Neither Brazil nor Portugal have tasted defeat in the year 2010: Dunga’s team have won five of five games, while the Lusitanians have won four and drawn two of their six encounters. In addition, A Seleção are enjoying a run of eight consecutive wins while their upcoming opponents are unbeaten in 18. Perhaps tellingly, Portugal’s last reverse was a 6-2 humbling by Brazil on 19 November 2008.
What they said
“Our team’s reputation will also be on the line. Our final group position is at stake, but more importantly we first have to seal our place in the next round. For that reason it’s vital that we’re totally focused and totally determined. That’s because everything we did right against the North Koreans – the goals we scored and the hard work we put in – doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll now beat Brazil,” Carlos Queiroz, Portugal coach.
“It’s another tough match, like every World Cup game. Our plan is to keep getting stronger with each game, like we did in 2002 (in Korea/Japan). In terms of technical ability, Portugal are on a par with Brazil. Cristiano Ronaldo is a great player, but we don’t intend to man-mark him. We’ll have to keep an eye on all their players,” Lucio, Brazil captain and centre-back.
Voice of the fans
“Portugal have somehow managed to defy the statistics over the last few games. When we think we’ll win, we draw! And when we think about drawing we normally win, though we normally don’t think we’re going to lose. I honestly don’t know what might happen. We may not have the best attack in the world but I do think we’ve got the best defence. And if, as the saying goes, the best form of attack is a good defence, then I predict a win for Portugal over Brazil,” dnasaldanha, FIFA.com user.
With Brazil be able to click without Kaka? Or will Cristiano Ronaldo and Co dominate proceedings in Durban?