The hopes of a nation can now rest on a protective cast. The Ivory Coast’s — and TIME 100 cover star — Didier Drogba has been given special clearance by FIFA to wear it on his broken right arm for his side’s group game against Portugal. Reason enough to live blog this massive match!
11.50am Full time and the game ends in a goalless draw, never coming to life. Portugal made the brighter start but before too long, it was the Ivoirians who looked more likely to score in a game both sides were petrified to lose. Group of Death? That was unfortunately more like the Game of Death. Thanks for reading and enjoy the Brazilians later. Now there’s a game that shouldn’t lack goals.
11.47am Was that the moment? Keita puts Drogba in but his shot is more like a cross which nobody was expecting. If he starts the next game, he’ll surely be fresher but we expected slightly more.
11.46am And 3 is the amount of minutes of injury time to be played. Will it be the magic number?
11.43am And incredibly the score is 3-3!*Checks notes* Oh, that’s the substitute count.
11.38am Eight minutes plus injury time to play and the Ivory Coast are lined up in as attacking a formation as we’ve seen. The only way Portugal can capitalize is on the counter-attack but the unthinkable — 0-0 — looks very much on the cards.
11.35am Ronaldo “wins” a free kick 40 yards out and his dipping effort is pretty decent. Drogba puts his arm around him and it’s a more genuine moment than you might imagine. It’s also the most Drogba has done since coming on.
11.32am Kolo Toure goes down and he’s either got cramp or is pulling a fast one to get showered and back to base to watch Brazil play later.
11.30am “Entertainment has not been on the agenda. This is business.” Color commentator in England nails it with his analysis (former Liverpool player Jim Beglin, in case you’re wondering.)
11.27am Portugal have the ball in the net but it’s ruled out (nobody complains) for a foul. Surely this won’t finish 0-0? Will it?
11.24am Sven not exactly going for broke by taking off Drogba’s Chelsea teammate Kalou for the big man. You couldn’t accuse Sven of taking too many gambles when in charge of England and perhaps he should have made this switch at the break?
11.21am Drog alert! And the vuvuzelas made such a din that you just knew he would be coming on. And it’s just started to rain, making conditions almost like Stamford Bridge for the striker. Will Portugal be singing the blues?
11.16am Yours truly with an SI type curse: after praising Deco, he’s only been substituted! And he does not look happy (with the decision, presumably not my remarks)
11.12am Game opens up a little more. Deco — who has had a quietly impressive game — dinks out a cross for Liedson to head on target. To say Boubacar Barry’s save was for the cameras is an understatement. And then the Ivoirians come back with two efforts of their own.
11.10am Substitution! Oh, it’s by Portugal as the desperately disappointing Danny is replaced by Simao, who was the only player to score a La Liga winner against Barcelona last season. A goal today would be just as precious.
11.08am As Tony points out, Drogba is warming up but his side may just take the lead without him as Kalou warms Eduardo’s hands. You feel like the breakthrough is less than 15 minutes away, with Les Elephants more likely to provide the moment impossible to forget (geddit?)
11.04am Kalou throws himself at the cross but just fails to connect. He and the Ivory Coast are markedly quicker out of the gate here than Portugal, who have failed to live up to their captain’s early promise. And if Drogba does come on, they may regret not having taken the initiative.
11.02am Here we go. “We need more ambition,” says the commentator here in England, rather stating the obvious. Ivory Coast win an early corner but ends up in Eduardo’s hands.
10.55am I started earlier with Tony’s Facebook comment and to keep that going, how about this beauty from a former Match of the Day colleague. Sean Twamley, I salute you! Just been to a South African orphanage with England’s Michael Dawson and Mathew Upson. “It was great to bring sunshine into the lives of people facing great challenges and unsurmountable odds,” said a Rustenberg orphan….I thank you.
10.44am You’d have been hard pressed to have 44 as the over/under on when the first Mexican Wave would have broken out in a match of this nature. But the fans are never wrong and they are merely telling the world they expected more. Let’s hope that Sven brings on Drogba as the half mercifully comes to a close. Needless to say, it’s 0-0 in this tense, tight affair.
10.42am Some sustained Ivoirian pressure leads to a corner which promptly goes out for a throw. The watching Brazil (at their hotel one imagines) won’t be shaking in their boots while the other team in the group, North Korea, aren’t probably even allowed to watch.
10.36am Portugal are equally frustrating: Meireles tries to put Liedson through but gets way too much on it. Both sides still a work in progress and you feel whoever breaks the deadlock may be the match winner in this one.
10.33am Stat of the day: Ronaldo hasn’t scored in 15 months for Portugal and didn’t notch one during qualifying. What odds he breaks that drought today?
10.30am End to end moves come to nothing. We need a moment of magic to give this game lift-off. Houston, we don’t quite have a problem but if you could manufacture a goal, we’d take it.
10.28am No love loss between these two sides and sadly the ugly nature of the beautiful game (Ronaldo hitting the post notwithstanding) is manifesting itself with niggly fouls and the stop start nature of the match.
10.24am A little taster of Barcelona vs Real Madrid as Yaya Toure is fouled by Ronaldo. Ivory Coast free kick comes to nothing. Penny for Drogba’s thoughts on the bench?
10.20am Tiote and Tiene have speculative shots from afar that don’t trouble Eduardo but at least serve notice that two teams are taking part.
10.18am For more insight, check out the comments box as Tony Karon (doing for football color commentary what John Madden did for, er, football color commentary) adds his opinions. And please post your own as we want to hear from you guys.
10.15am Finally some signs of life from the Ivory Coast as they make it out of their own half. Such a shame that there are so many empty seats in Nelson Mandela Bay stadium.
10.10am And now for the good side to CR: his snap shot has the keeper Boubacar Barry beaten all ends up, saved only by the woodwork. A captain’s performance thus far and the Ivory Coast looks like they could do with Mr. Drogba.
10.07am Sure enough, Ronaldo wins a free-kick, getting Zokora a needless booking in the process. As he puffs out his cheeks to take the set-play, he looks just like he does in the Nike ad. Write the future? Ronaldo’s shot harmlessly drifts away.
10.05am There might be an extra buzz around the stadium (or possibly louder than usual vuvuzelas?) but this is a cagey start. A couple of decent touches by Ronaldo but nothing to truly note … yet.
10.00am And we’re off: potentially one of the best group games is underway!
9.58am How bad can Drogba’s arm be? He just applauded the anthem!
9.55am So what do we make of that? Drogba, who broke his arm as recently as early June somehow makes the bench while Gervais Kouassi joins Aruna Dindane and Salomon Kalou in a three-pronged attack. Portugal picks Danny on the wing in preference to Simao Sabrosa with injury doubt Pepe also on the bench.
9.50am Here are your Group G teams (where G stands for Glorious!): Ivory Coast: 1-Boubacar Barry; 21-Emmanuel Eboue, 4-Kolo Toure, 20-Guy Demel, 17-Siaka Tiene; 10-Gervais Kouassi, 5-Didier Zokora, 19-Yaya Toure, 9-Cheik Tiote, 8-Salomon Kalou, 15-Aruna Dindane.
Portugal: 1-Eduardo; 3-Paulo Ferreira, 2-Bruno Alves, 6-Ricardo Carvalho, 23-Fabio Coentrao; 8-Pedro Mendes 16-Raul Meireles, 20-Deco, 7-Cristiano Ronaldo, 10-Danny, 9-Liedson.
9.10am I will post the full team news when I have it but Drogba starts on the bench. He’ll surely play some part unless his team completely puts Portugal away?
9.00am What better way to get set for what we hope is a fabulous football match than for our very own Tony Karon’s preview via his Facebook page: “Drogba vs. Carvalho, C. Ronaldo vs. Yaya Toure, Kalou vs. Ferreira, Liedson vs. Kolo Toure, Zokora vs. Deco, and Eboue vs. anyone who dares to guard Portugal’s left flank!!!! This one could be a classic”