Portugal, Brazil still marquee matchup
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency
JOHANNESBURG - It was anticipated to be the marquee matchup of the first round in the World Cup.
Now that Brazil has advanced to the next round and barring a major catastrophe, Portugal will join it in the second round. It takes some of the lustre out of the matchup. The Ivory Coast plays North Korea and it needs a lot of goals and hope Portugal loses big.
First place is at stake in the group, but there may not be a big rush for Portugal to unseat Brazil at the top. The second-round opponent for the team that finishes first could well wind up being Spain.
That said, Portugal is on a high after its 7-0 thumping of North Korea. The Portuguese have struggled at the national level since the European championship two years ago.
Their win over North Korea might have been a catharsis. Portugal was able to play with skill and more importantly score goals.
When you get on a roll like that, the last thing you want to do is start to coast. It's a delicate balance for both teams.
"Portugal and Brazil have what it takes to put on a great football show for the world," said Portugal's manager Carlos Queiroz.
Does that mean they will play to win or play to stay sharp and advance?
Portugal and Brazil play the same style. Portugal is often referred to as the Brazil of Europe although it hasn't shown much of that kind of skill until its game against the Koreans.
Neither team will want to risk injury or suspension so expectations are that the teams will enjoy a sedate contest. But expect decisions to be made, especially on the part of the Portuguese when they move to the next round.
Deco has a hip injury and may miss out. His replacement played well against North Korea. Tiago was outstanding.
Deco has begun to show his age. The Portuguese offence ran extremely well with Tiago spraying balls around the park.
"Portugal and Brazil have what it takes to put on a great football show for the world," Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz said.
Brazil started slowly in the tournament but it was sharp at both end of the field against the Ivory Coast. Brazil has to worry about Cristiano Ronaldo who came out of his goal-scoring slump, finally scoring against North Korea.
Brazil has won 12 of the 18 games between the two countries. They have met just once at a World Cup and that was in 1966 when Portugal, with Eusebio, beat Brazil and knocked them out of the group phase.
So while this game doesn't have the same sashay as it might have had, any time two of the world's top-ranked teams get together, there's always the possibility that something wonderful will be produced.