Group of Death put to bed
Brazil, Portugal finish up with a snoozer
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency
Brazil's Michel Bastos fights for the ball with Portugal's Duda during World Cup play at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban. (REUTERS/Jose Manuel Ribeiro)
DURBAN – It was not the showcase of the beautiful game expected or hoped for.
By the end of it, it was outrageously dull.
And fans at Moses Mabhida Stadium showed their displeasure at the end of the Portugal-Brazil match by soundly booing both teams.
In the end, though, all that mattered to both was that they were able to make it through the dangerous Group of Death to the knockout round.
The much-anticipated contest between two world soccer powers had the sting taken out of it long before they took to the field.
In the end, a 0-0 draw was about all anyone could expect from Brazil, a team that had already qualified, and Portugal, a team that had such a large lead in the goals-scored and goal-differential category that, short of a disaster it knew it was headed to the second round.
The fait accompli resulted in an often tedious, insipid affair that only occasionally showed the brilliance of Latin football.
When the teams did allow the skill to flow, they offered a glimpse of what might happen when they meet with something on the line.
What started out promising lost its zip as the game dragged on.
But Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz must have been watching another game given his hyperbole afterwards.
Obviously carried away with having tied Brazil, he called the game a “football feast.”
Only if everyone is on a restricted diet.
“I think it was a great show, a football feast,” he said. “Brazil played very strong in the first few minutes but after their initial period of domination, Portugal slowly started to control the game. In the end, it was a game where we attacked and they defended.
“Today is a day to celebrate because Portugal has qualified with a great degree of merit. It was a great game of football, the players played extremely well and they must be congratulated.”
Brazil coach Dunga was somewhat more realistic . . . at least about the quality of the match. He was disappointed about what it produced.
“No, we are not happy,” Dunga said. “Brazil always plays to win and we tried to attack until the end.
“Portugal didn't want to attack, they wanted to defend. My team is always ready to go forward and that was the case today.”
What was expected to be the World Cup’s Group of Death turned out to be hardly that.
With the Ivory Coast playing only average soccer, there was little terror in the mix.
Brazil wound up on top of the group with seven points, followed by Portugal with five points and the Ivory Coast with four. North Korea wound up just filling the group out.
Brazil’s Kaka and Elano did not play against Portugal. With that in mind, Dunga couldn’t resist a parting shot at the Portuguese.
“Kaka and Elano are exceptional players,” Dunga said. “But the way in which Portugal played, it would have made it difficult for Kaka and Elano to help us more today.”
There has never been much love between the former colony and its colonial master. For a game that meant little, both teams didn’t hesitate to stomp on each other.
Mexican referee Benito Archundia handed out seven yellow cards in the first half alone.
Could the teams have been marking their territory should they meet later in the tournament?
There’s probably good reason for Portugal to be happier with the result than Brazil.
Portugal has a huge 7-0 win over North Korea under its belt. Brazil, though, has yet to hit the stride everyone expects of them.
While it has the ability to play flowing soccer, this Brazilian team is built from the back out. Dunga has faced some criticism for dulling down the Brazilian play, which has been recognizable in its style and flair.
It’s is a risky gamble for Dunga. If Brazil wins, no one will care much what style it played.
But should the unthinkable happen and Brazil loses, the 30-minute life span of the mayfly will seem like a lifetime to Dunga.