Cristiano Ronaldo was denied by the woodwork as Portugal and Ivory Coast had to
make do with a point apiece in Port Elizabeth.
Ronaldo, who has not scored an international goal in 16 months,
rattled a post with a blistering early strike, but that was as close as his side
came to snatching victory on a frustrating afternoon at the Nelson Mandela Bay
Even Didier Drogba's arrival as a second-half substitute, to the delight of a
crowd of 37,034, could not separate the sides as each attempted to gain the
upper hand in Group G ahead of their respective encounters with Brazil.
Ivory Coast boss Sven-Goran Eriksson was boosted ahead of kick-off when he was
able to name captain Drogba among his substitutes just 10 days after he had
broken a bone in his arm.
The Swede could not have failed to be satisfied too by the time he welcomed his
players back to the dressing room at half-time with an opening 45 minutes in
which they had more than matched their opponents.
However, for all that, they could have been behind after Ronaldo saw his
spectacular 30-yard strike come back off the upright with keeper Boubacar Barry
beaten just 11 minutes in.
In a frustrating first half for the European side, Ronaldo was booked along
with defender Guy Demel as they went nose to nose after the winger had gone to
ground all too easily, with Demel and Didier Zokora, who had himself earlier
been cautioned for unceremoniously upending the Real Madrid star, leaving him in
little doubt as to their thoughts on the matter.
But where he was Portugal's only real outlet with Danny and Liedson largely
anonymous in a three-man frontline, Ivory Coast showed real enterprise before
Gervinho, leading the line in Drogba's absence, proved a real handful, and with
Aruna Dindane and Salomon Kalou similarly progressive, the Portuguese were
That said, keeper Eduardo did not have a single save of any note to make in the
opening 45 minutes with speculative efforts from Siaka Tiene and Ismael Tiote
requiring only a watching brief.
Eduardo finally had to get his hands dirty two minutes after the restart when
Gervinho blasted a shot across him, and Paulo Ferreira did just enough to
prevent Kalou from reaching Dindane's cross seconds later.
The Braga keeper was called upon once again with 54 minutes gone when Yaya
Toure cut inside at pace and fed Kalou, although the Chelsea man side-footed
straight at Eduardo from the edge of the box.
Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz immediately replaced Danny with winger Simao, but
it was Deco who provided the 58th-minute cross for Liedson's looping header,
which was plucked out of the air by Barry.
Drogba's World Cup began in earnest when he replaced Kalou with 66 minutes
gone, but with heavy rain falling, it was Portugal who finished the stronger,
although crucially, without coming close to making the breakthrough.