Didier Zokora has set his sights on denting Brazil's FIFA World Cup™ hopes as Côte d'Ivoire attempt to pile the pressure on Portugal. The 29-year-old Sevilla midfielder, employed alongside skipper Kolo Toure in central defence for yesterday's 0-0 draw with the Portuguese, knows one of the Group G big guns cannot make it to the last 16.
Portugal face the Brazilians in the last of their three first-round matches in Durban on June 25, while the Africans will be attempting to book their place in the knockout stages against North Korea, who put up a brave fight in defeat by the five-times world champions Tuesday night in Nelspruit.
Should Côte d'Ivoire manage a positive result against the South Americans in Johannesburg on Saturday evening, that would leave Portugal little margin for error when they face the Koreans in their second group game the following afternoon.
Zokora said: "There are three games, and all are tough. But we have taken a lot of confidence. We will have to play well defensively again because Brazil are a great team. They have very good players. We will have to be more compact than against Portugal because Brazil have a lot of great players. I was very happy with the result against a team like Portugal. It was not easy. But now I look forward to Brazil."
Côte d'Ivoire coach Sven-Goran Eriksson was the happier of the two coaches after the game with opposite number Carlos Queiroz bemoaning the Africans' defensive approach. But although Cristiano Ronaldo rattled the upright from distance, the European side created little of any note.
We will have to be more compact than against Portugal because Brazil have a lot of great players.
Their opponents also struggled to create clear-cut chances, and even when they freed substitute Didier Drogba, playing with a cast protecting his broken arm, his inviting ball across the face of goal found no support. The Chelsea frontman was delighted with the result, but admitted his side would have to step up a gear to get anything out of their clash with Brazil.
Drogba said: "Yes, we need to change -- we need to score goals. To score goals would be nice. But we need to defend the same and maybe try to improve the one-on-ones, and have more occasions [to score]. You can only be satisfied with the [Portugal] result, given the young history of the Ivory Coast in the World Cup. To draw against the third nation in the FIFA rankings is amazing for us. I'm really proud of the Ivory Coast and proud of the result."
Portugal coach Queiroz, meanwhile, remains confident of negotiating his way out of a group dubbed "the Group of Death" when it was drawn. He said: "Everybody in the world realised that this group is the toughest at this World Cup.
"As I said before the game, no matter how much good football is played in this group, the rules mean that one of the teams [Portugal, Brazil and Côte d'Ivoire] cannot reach the second stage, so it is very important we play this group intelligently.
"There were nine points to play for; now we still have six points to play for. We now play a team that is not a candidate to move forward [North Korea], and let's see what happens between Brazil and Ivory Coast. Then in the last games, every team will have their cards on the table."