Brazil and Portugal played out an extremely uneventful goal-less draw which saw both sides qualify for the last 16. What was perceived as arguably the potential standout game of the group stages failed to deliver on its promise as Portugal’s desire to secure the point that would definitely seal what was already likely qualification from Group G limited any free-flowing football from either side.
Unsurprisingly, the already qualified Brazil were the more positive of the two sides but were only able to fashion a handful of chances, the best of which fell to striker Nilmar but was superbly saved by goalkeeper Eduardo.
The draw means the South Americans finish top of the group and will look forward to the second phase with confidence, even though this could present them with an earlier-than-expected clash with the closest rivals for their world number one status, Spain. Portugal’s 7-0 thrashing of North Korea in their previous match ensured that despite this defeat, and the Ivory Coast’s 3-0 victory over the North Koreans in the group’s other game, they progressed to the knockout stages in South Africa as runners-up.
Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz made four changes to the team from Monday with Pepe and Ricardo Costa coming into defence and Danny and Duda in midfield.
Having overwhelmed their opponents four days ago, Queiroz’s men reverted to a more conservative style designed to stifle their opponents and its efficiency resulted in an anti-climactic and fractious game where the number of bookings outweighed clear-cut chances. Portugal defender Pepe and Brazil mid fielder Felipe Melo were both booked during a running battle, which resulted in the latter being substituted just before half-time, seemingly for his own protection.
Brazil defender Juan was one of five other players booked but it could have been worse when he handled 40 yards from goal from a long ball seeking to release Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo clear down the right. Ronaldo, operating in a lone attacking role was Portugal’s chief threat but this primarily constituted a series of long-range efforts from 40 yards-plus which even for a player of Ronaldo’s quality were wildly optimistic.
When the Real Madrid man was allowed to run at goal, he twice met with strong challenges from Lucio, the first of which was a superb block from a shot on the left, but the second, from a similarly aggressive run on the right, inadvertently deflected the ball across goal to Raul Meireles only for the mid fielder to shoot wide. To this end, Brazil rested Robinho, bringing in Nilmar up front to partner Luis Fabiano, who scored a hat-trick in that 6-2 win and bagged a brace in their previous group game against the Ivory Coast.
The attacking duo were central to all of Brazil’s best attacking play.