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Group G.

Monday, December 07, 2009

The World Cup draw took place on Friday 5th at about 6pm, delayed by about 10 minutes due to Charlize Theron totally not grasping the concept of a football draw. Eventually it was all over and the groups for the 2010 South African World Cup became clear. What became abundantly clear too was that Group G - Portugal's group - was the clich├ęd "Group o' Death".

So what does it all mean?

Portugal were in Pot 4 - the pot containing the remainder of non-seeded European nations, and therefore were drawn with Brazil, the Ivory Coast and North Korea. What it means is very clear; Portugal will have to play to the best of their ability if they're to progress from this group.

They face Ivory Coast first on the 15th of June in Port Elizabeth (a beautiful 48 000 seater stadium), a game which should be the best start they need. Although facing North Korea would be a nice way to possibly earn some points early on, facing the Ivory Coast with all guns blazing would stand them in good stead for the other group games.

Crucially Portugal face Brazil on the last day of the group stage; should they require a result to progress from the group then that would be very tricky.

It's an enormous game, as they tend to be. The most recent was a 6-2 win for Brazil, and before that a 2-0 win for Portugal. Portugal have Deco, Pepe and Liedson; 3 nationalised Brazilians for whom this will be a massive game. All 3 presumably became Portuguese as a result of not earning any Brazilian caps and so this will be the chance to shine and prove themselves. I have no doubt they will give everything they've got.

Portugal have been embarrassed in the past, most recently their 2002 group stage exit. After an opening day defeat to the USA, it ended with former Benfica and Sporting legend Joao Pinto physically assaulting the referee following his dismissal. They have learnt their lessons, and in 2006 progressed to the semi-final where they narrowly lost to a Zidane penalty. This is of course a different team, yet the maturity is there.

This may be the last chance for players like Simao and Deco, the first and only chance for Liedson and most importantly the best stage for Cristiano Ronaldo to shine.

As good as the Ivory Coast have become (they are undefeated in 12 qualifiers, only dropping points in their final game away to Malawi), Portugal have to believe that they are better. Although with the majority of the Ivorian players plying their trade in Europe maybe this is no longer the case.

Scolari recently gave his thoughts on the matter, explaining how he was "happy" at the draw because it meant that "both teams will pass, and won't meet again in the knockouts". I only wish the rest of us were that optimistic.

posted by teedoubleyou


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