Sport

Ivory Coast and Portugal share points in stalemate

Ivory Coast's Didier Drogba, left, with Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo during the World Cup match between Ivory Coast and Portugal at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth, South Africa on Tuesday. The game ended in a goalless draw.

Ivory Coast's Didier Drogba, left, with Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo during the World Cup match between Ivory Coast and Portugal at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth, South Africa on Tuesday. The game ended in a goalless draw.   | Photo Credit: Armando Franca

The expression group of death was not coined to suggest death by boredom, though this attractive and eagerly anticipated fixture only produced an earnest but tedious midfield struggle.

Cristiano Ronaldo faded away after a promising start, Didier Drogba did not start at all. He came on before the end, much to the crowd's approval, only to find that in keeping with the rest of the game nothing resembling a chance came his way until stoppage time. Even then, when he did get a brief sight of goal, his attempt uncharacteristically resembled a clearance more than a threat.

What group of death usually means is that three teams of broadly similar ability are obliged to fight for two qualification places. While it remains to be seen whether either of these two can match Brazil, Ivory Coast and Portugal are so evenly matched there was nothing to choose between them. It was not an overly defensive game, just one in which neither side could produce a telling attack.

The first half was keenly contested without producing much in the way of goalmouth incident. Neither goalkeeper had a real save to make, although Cristiano Ronaldo did hit Boubacar Barry's post with a terrific shot from well outside the penalty area after 11 minutes. The winger had tried his luck with the new ball before that, taking a shot at goal with the first free-kick he won, for a foul by Didier Zokora, even though the distance was so ambitious he began his run-up from the edge of the centre circle.

Ronaldo was booked, along with Guy Demel, when the pair squared up to each other mid-way through the half, after a foul by the latter went unpunished by the referee. That cramped the Portugal captain's style somewhat and he was quiet until half-time, as was the game. Ivory Coast badly missed Drogba as their attacking spearhead, as any side would. Gervinho was just not the same threat. He did have one sight of goal, but a good cover tackle by Paulo Ferreira stopped him in the act of shooting.

The first shot on target came after 53 minutes, Salomon Kalou hitting it straight at the goalkeeper. Liedson's header from Deco's cross then brought a save from Barry at the other end as the game finally began to warm up. Gervinho headed over from Ismael Tiote's cross before Drogba was sent on for Kalou with 25 minutes remaining. An expectant roar greeted his entrance, though it could simply have been relief. Sadly, for the crowd if not for Portugal, no business was to result.

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Printable version | Apr 8, 2020 10:13:47 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/Ivory-Coast-and-Portugal-share-points-in-stalemate/article16245392.ece

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