The Brazilian carnival rolled into Durban on Friday, turning the sunny Indian Ocean coastal city into Copacabana beach for a day. However, the South Americans were unable to reward their vociferous support with goals, drawing 0-0 with Portugal – a result that takes both sides through to the Round of 16.
Brazil had the first chance of a cagey, stop-start first half with a long-distance effort from the tireless Dani Alves, featuring in place of the injured Elano on the right flank. But the Barcelona star hardly troubled Portugal goalkeeper Eduardo as his try trickled harmlessly wide of the post. He had another chance on the quarter-hour mark from a similar distance, with the keeper collecting easily.
Those efforts set the tone for much of what would follow. With Robinho on the bench and Kaka suspended, Brazil were reduced to trying their luck from long range as Juilio Baptista proved unable to get much going in the space behind strikers Nilmar and Luis Fabiano. Up the other end, Cristiano Ronaldo was ploughing a lone furrow in a defensive scheme set up by Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz. Fabio Coentrao was the most dangerous man on the park for the Portuguese, bursting up the left flank and delivering inch-perfect crosses that caused the Brazilian defence some concern in the opening period. Neither Tiago nor Ronaldo could take advantage of the best chances the Benfica wide man carved open, however.
The half-hour mark brought the clearest opening of a hard-fought first half, which produced seven yellow cards. A sneaky ball across the six-yard box from Luis Fabiano found Nilmar lurking at the back post. He rounded Ricardo Carvalho only to be denied by the upright from a tight angle. Seven minutes before the break Luis Fabiano then had a golden chance with a header from a similar position, but was unable to do justice to Dani Alves's cross.
Real Madrid ace Ronaldo, who got the biggest roar from the crowd at the start, began to get himself into some dangerous areas after the restart, forcing the Brazilian back line – captain Lucio in particular – into some last-ditch tackles. His deflected free-kick from distance in the 51st minute had the fans in yellow feeling a little nervous as Portugal began to look more positive in their approach. With substitute Simao pulling the strings, Queiroz's side nearly took the lead on the hour. Ronaldo broke free on the right of the area and when Lucio made the tackle, the ball fell for Raul Meireles, who could only manage to fire wide from close range.
In the end, though, a 0-0 draw was enough for both sides to move on, Brazil as Group G winners and Portugal as runners-up, pipping third-placed Côte d'Ivoire by a point. The Brazilians will now meet the second-placed team from Group H – in action later in the day – with Portugal taking on that section's winners.