Brazil wins Group G and Portugal advances to second round after 0-0 draw at World Cup

By Tales Azzoni, AP
Friday, June 25, 2010

Brazil wins Group G after 0-0 draw with Portugal

DURBAN, South Africa — Two of soccer’s most prolific teams couldn’t find the net Friday at the World Cup.

Portugal reached the second round of the World Cup on Friday after a listless 0-0 draw with group winner Brazil. Brazil had already secured advancement and won Group G with seven points, two more than Portugal. Ivory Coast, which beat North Korea 3-0, was third with four points. The Koreans ended with zero.

Portugal came into the match with a comfortable goal differential to just about guarantee its spot in the round of 16 even with a loss.

Brazil coach Dunga blamed Portugal’s defensive setup for the lackluster result.

“We played to win, but our opponent didn’t,” Dunga said. “We always tried to attack, but they only tried to take advantage of our mistakes.”

Brazil plays the runner-up in Group H on Monday in Johannesburg.

“Portugal came playing back, trying to use Cristiano Ronaldo on the counterattacks,” Julio Cesar said. “It was a difficult group so it was good to finish first. Now the hard part begins and we can’t lose anymore.”

Portugal faces the Group H winner Tuesday in Cape Town. Not surprisingly, its coach blamed Brazil for the lack of offense.

“Brazil played very strongly in the first few minutes, but after that initial period of domination Portugal slowly started to control the game. In the end, the draw was a fair result,” coach Carlos Queiroz said.

“Portugal advanced with merits and now we have to start thinking about our next matches. It was a difficult match for Brazil and for us.”

Both teams had good chances, but failed to capitalize at Moses Mabhida Stadium.

Brazil striker Nilmar had a shot tipped against the goalpost by goalkeeper Eduardo in the 30th minute, and Luis Fabiano’s close-range header just missed wide in the 39th. Portugal had a goal denied by keeper Julio Cesar in the 60th, when he barely tipped wide a shot by Raul Meireles after a dangerous run by Ronaldo.

The match was one of the most-anticipated in the group stage, a meeting between two talented teams known for their attacking style. Brazil came into the tournament as the top-ranked team, while Portugal is No. 3. Both teams had dominating wins in the previous match, with Brazil beating Ivory Coast 3-1 and Portugal routing North Korea 7-0.

The result kept alive a 19-match unbeaten streak for Portugal, which hasn’t lost since a 6-2 defeat at Brazil in a 2008 friendly. It halted Brazil’s seven-match winning streak.

Brazil controlled possession most of the physical match in front of 62,712 fans, with Portugal relying on quick counterattacks and the skills of Ronaldo. Mexican referee Benito Archundia showed seven yellow cards — four to Portugal — in the first half.

The best opportunity for the Brazilians came from Nilmar after a perfect pass from Luis Fabiano. But Eduardo knocked it off the post.

Luis Fabiano, who scored twice against Ivory Coast, also had a great chance after a cross from Maicon, but his header bounced off the ground and just missed wide with the goalkeeper beaten.

Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar made an incredible save on the shot by Meireles after a dangerous run from Ronaldo, who beat three defenders on the right before Lucio touched the ball across the area and into Meireles’ path.

Both teams played without their top playmakers and it probably made a difference. Brazil couldn’t count on Kaka because of a late red card in the match against Ivory Coast, while Portugal was without Brazil-born Deco for the second straight match because of a right hip injury.

The Brazilians also played without starting midfielder Elano because of a right ankle injury sustained in the second half against the Ivorians, and coach Dunga left Robinho out of starting lineup to rest.

It was the first time the teams met at the World Cup since Eusebio helped the Portuguese beat the Brazilians 3-1 in 1966.

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