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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

IVORY COAST vs PORTUGAL >>> Match Previews


To say that Portugal were unconvincing in qualifying for the World Cup would be an understatement. Their place in South Africa was only secured courtesy of a play-off victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina, and they failed to even score against lowly Albania in a home qualifying fixture, playing out an embarrassing 0-0 draw in Leiria.
Add to that Cristiano Ronaldo's failure to score in their qualification campaign, and a recent 0-0 draw at home to minnows Cape Verde Islands, and it would be fair to say that Carlos Queiroz is under as much pressure as any coach at the finals.
For the Ivory Coast's Sven-Goran Eriksson, though, it is an unexpected chance to lead the best equipped of the African nations into the continent's first World Cup finals. The draw may not have been kind to Ivory Coast, but having been grouped with unknown quantity North Korea and under-performing Portugal, Eriksson's men will be confident of progressing alongside probable group winners Brazil.
Their success, however, hinges on the fitness of talismanic striker Didier Drogba. Should Drogba recover from a broken arm in time to play a full part in Ivory Coast's campaign, they will be a team to avoid in South Africa.

Ivory Coast player in focus: Salomon KalouWith doubts over the participation of Didier Drogba, following his injury in the friendly against Japan, the onus falls on his Chelsea team-mate Kalou to lead the attack. Quick, agile and with a good eye for goal, Kalou has been unlucky to be sidelined so regularly for his club and has a great chance to prove himself on the world stage.

Portugal player in focus: Cristiano RonaldoHaving failed to score in Portugal's dismal qualifying campaign, Ronaldo has the expectations of the entire world on his shoulders in South Africa. He already talked of feeling under pressure, but he needs to be at his best if a weak Portugal attack is to fire. Without Nani, Ronaldo's trickery on the wings will have to provide a large chunk of the service for Liedson up front, and he will be the focus of all Portugal's moves.

Key Battle: Emmanuel Eboue v Simao

With Ronaldo on one side, Simao will have the chance to run at his man and may target Eboue as a weak link in the Ivorian defence. Having burst onto the scene as a full back at Arsenal, Eboue has been moved further up the pitch for his club and Simao will be keen to exploit his lack of defensive nous. Perhaps a spiky confrontation is on the cards as well, as both men have been known to lose their tempers in the past.
Trivia: Portugal have six players in their squad born outside of Portugal: Deco, Liedson, Pepe (all Brazil), Daniel Fernandes (Canada), Rolando (Cape Verde) and Danny (Venezuela).
Stats: Sven-Goran Eriksson has been knocked out of his last two major tournaments as an international manager at the quarter-final stage, on penalties, by Portugal (Euro 2004, World Cup 2006)




Take Ivory Coast +1/4


Take 1 -1 DRAW (Exact Score)

Take 2-2 DRAW (Exact Score)

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