26 June 2010
|Brazil coach Dunga. (Credit Image: © Action Images/ZUMApress.com)|
I honestly don’t know what was most shocking: the fact Brazil and Portugal didn’t muster anything that would qualify as a serious threat on goal until the eightieth minute, or the fact the Ivory Coast seemed to be coasting through their match with North Korea. I could slightly understand Brazil/Portugal, as Brazil was already through and Portugal just needed to play out to a draw to get through as well. However, the fact the Ivory Coast were way too selective in their attack just baffled me. You would think for a side that needed to overcome a nine goal differential just to have a shot at advancing, they could have come up with better chances at goal.
To North Korea’s credit, they did do a good job frustrating Ivory Coast in the attack. Despite being beaten for three goals, they still kept their defensive shape organized, forcing Ivory Coast into plenty of shots from distance. When their keeper went down injured in the second half, they did as good a job of protecting him as a team possibly could. My issue here is with Ivory Coast. They played as if they didn’t have a plan b, let alone a potential plan c or d. They continued to make the same runs, expecting it would be as easy as it was in the first minute to get into the box. When it became apparent it wouldn’t, it seemed as if they gave up. While they got a third goal late, they never gave themselves a real chance to advance.
Meanwhile in Durban, about the only surprising thing was how physical the game seemed to play out. With the yellow cards coming out almost at will in the first half, it was surprising that we didn’t seem a red card. Dunga, to his credit, was smart enough to get Felipe Melo off the pitch before the first half ended without costing his side three points.
Portugal should have added a second man into the attack to compliment Ronaldo up top. Had Brazil taken the lead, I think Ronaldo would have had a partner up front as they went in search of an equalizer. Even still, considering the consequences could have been a date with Spain in the round of sixteen, I think you have to go for the win in this situation. Sure, all hell could have broken loose, and they could have lost by 2 or 3 to nil, but the percentages of Ivory Coast overturning the goal difference was just too small. Instead, after a chippy first half, the second half played out rather tamely.
Had we seen a little urgency from the Ivory Coast, and gotten a third or fourth goal before halftime, I wonder what would have happened in the second half in Durban. However, instead of what if, Portugal got exactly what they went out to do. I just wonder if they are happy with the consequences of their actions.