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In a disappointing fixture, Brazil clinched top spot while Portugal progressed...

 


Portugal and Brazil battled to a 0-0 draw in Durban to ensure both sides qualified from Group G in the World Cup.

It was a largely scrappy game, with the best chance falling to Portugal's Raul Meireles on the hour mark, who had his effort tipped wide by Julio Cesar.

As expected, Brazil made changes to their side in light of their already-assured place in the last 16. Dani Alves, Julio Baptista and Nilmar came in for Elano, Robinho and the suspended Kaka. Portugal made four changes, bringing in Danny, Duda, Costa and the fit-again Pepe.

Brazil attacked from the start, forcing a corner within the opening moments and seeing more of the possession than the Portuguese. But the early stages were beset by mistakes as the game lacked any real fluency.

Dani Alves had one effort from 25 yards which just went wide, while Portugal could have taken the lead in the 18 minute. Meireles made good progress down the left and crossed inch perfectly for Tiago, whose volley from outside the box flew just wide of goal.

Luis Fabiano was the first player to enter referee Benito Archundia’s notebook when he was booked for a late foul on Pepe. The same player was then brought down by Felipe Melo, but he escaped with a warning from the man in the middle.

A second yellow card followed in controversial circumstances, as Juan clearly raised his arm to stop a high ball reaching the path of Cristiano Ronaldo. The referee saw fit to show leniency rather than send off the defender, whilst also booking Duda for his protests.

 

 

Suddenly, some end-to-end action followed as Nilmar’s shot was superbly parried onto the woodwork by Eduardo, before Portugal broke and Tiago fell to the ground after an apparent push in the back. Rather than award a penalty though, the referee penalised the Atletico Madrid midfielder for a dive and showed him a yellow card.

A Ronaldo free kick flew well over the bar as Portugal started to cause Dunga’s side further trouble down the middle.

Nilmar had another effort which he sent just wide as Brazil continued to threaten on the break and then Pepe became the latest man into the referee’s bad books when he committed a late tackle in midfield, before a Ronaldo pot-shot from 25 yards was easily collected by Julio Cesar.

Felipe Melo again fouled Pepe and this time received a booking, before getting a dressing down from team-mate Gilberto Silva for his cocky behaviour towards the referee on receiving his caution. Within seconds the midfielder was replaced by Josue in an attempt by Dunga to keep his side up to 11 men.

Neither coach made further changes at the break, and it was Portugal who threatened first in the second half as Ronaldo broke clear down the left, but his awkward low cross was easily cut out by Lucio. But when he ran at the Brazil skipper a second time moments later it took a diving header from Juan to bail out the big number three after Ronaldo had managed to get a cross in behind him.

Simao was introduced into the fray at the expense of Duda as Carlos Queiroz looked to get more width out of his side.

The five-time winners continued to try to work the ball around Portugal and a decent passing move led to Dani Alves crossing from the right for Fabiano, but the striker had to arch backwards to get a header on target, making it easy for Eduardo to collect.

Substitute Simao then countered that effort with a speculative long-range strike which Julio Cesar collected at the second attempt as the game continued to lack the spark which many had expected to see.

It very nearly arrived on the hour mark when Ronaldo got free of Lucio on the right, and the defender’s cover tackle ran perfectly for Raul Meireles, but he chose to shoot with the outside of his right foot and Julio Cesar was able to tip the ball wide. The 'keeper picked up a heavy knock to his back as the two collided and had to be given treatment on the pitch before continuing.

When the corner finally came in, Ricardo Carvalho’s header was dealt with by two Brazilian defenders.

Danny appeared well set to test Julio Cesar as he found himself clear down the Portugal right, but a very late flag foiled him. The replays also suggested it was an erroneous decision.

 


Still the majority of shots seemed to be coming from long range, with Dani Alves attempting another speculative effort which failed to make Eduardo work and one had to begin wondering whether the two sides would begin to settle for what was a mutually beneficial scoreline.

Ronaldo failed to reach a low cross at one end, whilst Fabiano overhit a ball looking for Alves for the other as the game increasingly threatened to peter out. An excellent tackle by Carvalho foiled Julio Baptista just 20 yards from goal, but injured both players in the process before Michel Bastos brought down Simao but Portugal wasted the free kick.

Ronaldo thought he should have had another free kick when he was brought down by Gilberto Silva, but the ball had already fallen Portugal’s way but was wasted by a high shot from Simao.

Brazil coach Dunga appeared to still be waving his men forward when they were on the ball, but for the most part the players seemed content to stroke the ball around as the clock ran down.

They did carve out an opening in the second minute of stoppage time though as Ramires unleashed a stinging effort that Eduardo kept out with a brilliant one-handed leap.

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