Elephants, Portugal in goalless draw

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Pretoria - A combination of tension and excitement was palpable at the Nelson Mandela Stadium on Tuesday afternoon as Portugal staved of African hopefuls Ivory Coast, ending the group G opening match in a goalless draw.

The echo of vuvuzela's at the stadium by united African fans kept the Ivorians shining in the middle of the park, with Gervinho, Salomon Kalou and Aruna Dindane causing trouble for the Portuguese defence.

The Elephants displayed their trademark style and determination and the combination of the trio with great support from Didier Zokora saw Portugal top star, Cristiano Ronaldo, getting more than a little frustrated.

Zokora challenged Ronaldo after making a dangerous tackle and the two exchanged a few words which saw them both being given a yellow card.

Ronaldo nearly punished the Ivorians in the 10th minute when he unleashed a volley 28 metres from the box, but the ball hit the cross-bar.

The Elephants started the game without their inspirational skipper Didier Drogba who broke his arm during a World Cup warm up match against Japan on June 4. But the striker joined his squad in the second half, when Sven-Goran-Eriksson replaced Kalou with the Chelsea livewire. There had been much speculation on whether the super star striker would be able to play.

The African hopefuls began the second-half with renewed vigour as the team continued to attack, but could not find the back of the net.

When the Portuguese managed to out-run the Ivorian defenders, Boubacar Barry made some superb saves.

In the 71st minute, the Portuguese put further pressure on the Africans resulting in a corner-kick.

Ronaldo managed to score from the well taken corner-kick, but the referee ruled against him after Guy Demel was fouled in the box.

As the Portuguese continued to put more pressure, Sieka Tiene on the other hand continued to give away set pieces by fouling the opponents.

Keita came in for Gervinho who was frustrating Carlos Queiroz's defence. Much was expected from Drogba, but there was no link between the Chelsea star, Dundane and Keita.

In the dying minutes of the game, the Ivorians began to attack, led by their experienced star, Drogba, but were unable to find the back of the net.

The Ivorians had a chance of collecting the three maximum points, but their finishing upfront was poor and when the final whistle blew, the scoreboard was 0-0.

The Elephants are in group D which is considered to be the group of "death" along with Brazil and Korea DPR. Drogba's team will face five-time champions, Brazil, on June 20 at Soccer City.