Before a ball had been kicked, Group G was considered to be the toughest section at 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, with three candidates likely to vie for the two qualifying places. But in the end, the Lusophone countries won the day, as an unbeaten Brazil topped the group and Portugal took second spot without conceding a goal.
Côte d’Ivoire lived up to expectations, but their haul of four points in three games meant that they missed out on the second qualification place. Only Korea DPR bowed out without opening their account, as their three matches brought no points and 12 goals conceded, the only highlight being their goal against the Brazilians.
Brazil: Even taking into account first-night nerves, the five-time world champions initially had their work cut out against a resolute Korea DPR outfit who defended in numbers. But Maicon’s strike opened up a stubborn rearguard, paving the way for a 2-1 victory, and A Seleção were off and running. Against their second opponents Côte d’Ivoire, Kaka and Luis Fabiano were the outstanding individuals as the South Americans maintained their impressive record of having qualified for the second stage of every one of the last eight FIFA World Cups. With their place in the Round of 16 secured, and without their inspirational playmaker after Kaka’s late red card against the Africans, Brazil played out a cautious goalless draw with Portugal.
Portugal: Many observers felt that Portugal’s opening game against Côte d’Ivoire would be crucial in setting the tone for the group stage, and Carlos Queiroz’s men dug deep to earn a well-deserved goalless draw. Their highpoint came in the second match, as they recorded the tournament’s biggest victory so far with a 7-0 thrashing of Korea DPR. Against the Brazilians, the Portuguese showed the defensive resolve for which they are rapidly gaining renown, holding their illustrious opponents at bay and booking their place in the last 16 with another goalless draw.
Côte d’Ivoire: Sven-Goran Eriksson’s men began their campaign with a creditable point against the Portuguese, as talismanic striker Didier Drogba made his comeback as a substitute from a fractured arm. Against Brazil the Chelsea man was pitched into the starting XI but Les Éléphants could not hold out against the South Americans, going down to a 3-1 defeat and seeing their hopes of qualification turn ebb away, given Portugal’s emphatic scoreline against Korea DPR. In their final group game, Drogba and company notched up a 3-0 win against the Asians ensuring that, just as in 2006, they left the tournament with their heads held high.
Korea DPR: In many ways the unknown quantity in the group, Korea DPR acquitted themselves with distinction in their first group game against Brazil, holding the team currently topping the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking at bay for a large part of the game and even scoring a goal. That strike, however, was their only shining moment in the tournament. In their second match they were on the wrong end of a fluent Portugal display as the Europeans bagged seven goals without reply, and the North Koreans bowed out of the tournament with a 3-0 reverse against Côte d’Ivoire, ending up in last place in the group.
Moments to savour
Goals aplenty in Cape Town
After a stirring display against Brazil, and trailing Portugal by a solitary goal after 53 minutes, Korea DPR’s resolve finally cracked. In 34 frenetic minutes, the Lusitanians found the net six times, recording the tournament’s most comprehensive victory so far and a 7-0 scoreline in their favour.
A wonder goal kick-starts Brazil's campaign
Faced with a stubborn North Korean rearguard, A Seleção needed a vital contribution from buccaneering wing-back Maicon with one of the goals of the tournament. After 55 minutes of stalemate, the Internazionale man made his way up the right-hand side, collected Elano’s raking pass and from an impossibly acute angle sent a swerving shot past the surprised Korea DPR goalkeeper Ri Myong Guk.
A national icon makes his comeback
Star striker Didier Drogba’s participation in the first FIFA World Cup to be held on African soil was in doubt after he sustained a fractured arm in Côte d’Ivoire’s friendly against Japan. But after 66 minutes of Les Éléphants’ opening game against Portugal, the Chelsea forward made his bow in the tournament, coming off the bench wearing a protective cast, and providing a shining example of determination and dedication against the odds.
Tears of pride
On a freezing night in Ellis Park, Korea DPR striker Jong Tae Se lined up with his team-mates before the Asians’ opening game against Brazil. And as his country’s national anthem rang out in the stadium, the moment was all too much for the youngster, whose pride at representing his nation on football’s greatest stage was there for all to see in the intensity of his tears.
0 - Together with Group A winners Uruguay, Carlos Queiroz’s Portugal are the only team not to have conceded a goal thus far in the tournament.
The final word
“I think the team has done well enough so far in the tournament and we’ve got the results that we needed. But it’s obvious that we need to step it up and improve, because from now on the matches are going to get even harder,” Brazil coach Dunga.