Kick Off: Friday, June 25, 2010. 20:30 CET
Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban
Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban
Portugal’s terrific second half performance against North Korea may have put them on the verge of the knockout rounds, but the Seleccao are still aiming for top spot in Group E. To achieve that, they will have to find a way to beat an impressive looking Brazil side.
After a scoreless draw in their opening game against Cote d’Ivoire, progress looked likely to be somewhat complicated for Carlos Queiroz’s side, yet they did themselves a massive favour by racking up the strike to defeat North Korea 7-0, building an impressive goal difference for themselves.
“I didn't feel guilty because you want to play and you want to score,” two-goal hero Tiago explained to the media after the success over the Chollima. He is of course right to have a greedily attitude with respect to goals, as the late flurry the Portuguese enjoyed in Cape Town could be the difference between qualification and elimination.
The Seleccao haven’t been impressive in the build-up to the World Cup, with star man Cristiano Ronaldo misfiring. He came to life late on against the North Koreans, and if Portugal are going to maintain a prolonged interest in the competition it is essential that the world’s most expensive player maintains such ferocious form.
Such a strong showing against the Chollima will have given the whole squad a boost after a long period when goals were tough to come by. Expect to see that reflected in their performance on Friday, even if the Castrol World Cup Match Predictor suggests Portugal only have a 21 per cent chance of winning.
Gunning For The Top
Brazil are a name to be feared in World Cup competition. No other country can boast the pedigree of the Selecao at such a lofty level and it seems that no matter what the year, the South American giants are always one of the favourite sides to lift the crown. Of course, 2010 is no different, and after seeing off the challenge of North Korea and Cote d’Ivoire, Dunga’s men are already building a reputation as one of the teams to beat.
The opening game against the Chollima was very much a war of attrition. Brazil spent long periods of the game looking for a way to break their opponents down before Maicon found the net from a tight angle. Elano found a second, and though North Korea scored late, that proved only to be a famous consolation.
Efficient in their bow, Brazil stepped up a gear against Ivory Coast in their second encounter. Goals from Luis Fabiano, who struck twice, and Elano helped the Selecao ease to a 3-1 victory that could have been greater had they not eased off in the closing stages of the game.
With rivals Argentina having already secured three group stage wins from three, Brazil are to attempt likewise. “This final group game is important for us to finish first,” Kaka explained to the PA. “A draw would also be good but a win would give us the strength to go into the knock-out round really motivated.
“Portugal is one of the teams we have faced more times in recent years. We thrashed them in Brasilia [6-2] and we lost against them in London 2-0.”
Portugal have met Brazil 18 times in the past, but it is their former colony who have the better of the historical record. Only on four occasions have the Seleccao defeated their South American cousins, and only on another two occasions have they even managed to earn a draw.
WON 7-0 (n) North Korea (World Cup, June 21)
DREW 0-0 (n) Cote d’Ivoire (World Cup, June 15)
WON 3-0 (n) Mozambique (Friendly, June 8)
WON 3-1 (h) Cameroon (Friendly, June 1)
DREW 0-0 (h) Cape Verde (Friendly, May 25)
WON 3-1 (n) Cote d’Ivoire (World Cup, June 20)
WON 2-1 (n) North Korea (World Cup, June 15)
WON 5-1 (a) Tanzania (Friendly, June 7)
WON 3-0 (a) Zimbabwe (Friendly, June 2)
WON 2-0 (a) Oman (Friendly, November 17)
Brazilian-born playmaker Deco is a doubt to participate in this encounter, describing his injury as “so-so”. He would likely have been usurped by Tiago in the centre of the park in any case.
Ruben Amorim is also out injured.
Probable Starting XI: Eduardo; Miguel, Carvalho, Alves, Coentrao; Pedro Mendes,
Tiago, Meireles; Ronaldo, Almeida, Simao
Elano may well sit out after suffering a calf strain in the encounter against Cote d’Ivoire but one man who certainly won’t play is Kaka. Dismissed late on in the Selecao’s previous encounter, the Real Madrid ace will be reduced to watching this game from the stands. Julio Baptista, Nilmar and Dani Alves have all been tipped to replace the playmaker, with various permutations working around each of those different options.
In order to maximise their chances of avoiding a last 16 meeting with Spain, Brazil will play a full strength side.
Probable Starting XI: Julio Cesar; Maicon, Lucio, Juan, Michel Bastos; Gilberto Silva, Felipe Melo; Julio Baptista, Nilmar, Robinho; Luis Fabiano
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Tiago was reintroduced into the starting XI for the North Korea match and proved to be a valuable asset. His passing was sharp and incisive, and he even got forward to score a couple of goals. He will certainly have to stretch his defensive muscles a good deal more against Brazil, but if he can somehow come out on top in the middle of the park, Cristiano Ronaldo will have more of a chance to strut his stuff in attack.
Luis Fabiano was subject of controversy against Cote d’Ivoire as he seemed to control the ball with his hand en route to scoring the second goal. The Sevilla striker had been lacking in confidence prior to lashing in a terrific shot earlier in that game, and now with two World Cup goals to his name, he will be aiming to build on that powerful performance.
Portugal will be confident after their start to the tournament, but Brazil showcased an ability to raise their game when required against Cote d’Ivoire and should have the all round ability to be able to see of their European opponents. Dunga’s side, who are known for being stuffier than their predecessors, will aim for a clean sheet, which they have yet to achieve in the tournament, but will come up short. This will represent the end of an unbeaten 18-match streak for Portugal.
Portugal 1-3 Brazil
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