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Thrilling Cote d'Ivoire Elephants Forced Into Draw With Portugal

Published on Wednesday 16th June 2010 Thrilling Cote d'Ivoire Elephants Forced Into Draw With Portugal

Cote d'Ivoire put in a thrilling performance but had to settle for a 0-0 draw with Portugal in their 2010 FIFA World Cup Group G clash at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday.

A point is certainly not a bad haul for either side, but as both would expect to beat North Korea in the pool, it means qualification from this group may rest on how they do against Brazil.

Striker Didier Drogba started on the bench but entered the fray with 25 minutes remaining, as Sven-Goran Eriksson's side looked set to take a major step towards the second round with a win.

They had almost gone behind early on when Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo fired a long-range shot against the Ivorians' post, a reminder of his quality and danger from just about anywhere within a 40-yard range.

However, the Cote d'Ivoire front three of Salomon Kalou, Gervinho and Aruna Dindane were causing problems of their own, particularly Lille striker Gervinho, for whom this tournament promises to be a springboard to a top European side.

Much of the match, at least until the last 15 minutes, was fought in the midfield, and it was there that Cote d'Ivoire held a slight advantage.

The decision to move midfielder Didier Zokora into the centre back position alongside Kolo Toure was an inspired one by Eriksson, and fills a problem area for the team that had been a major concern before the tournament.

The second half was mostly all Cote d'Ivoire, with Gervinho forcing Eduardo into a good save from a tight angle and Kalou almost getting on the end of an inviting cross from Dindane.

Kalou should have scored on 54 minutes, but hit the ball straight at Eduardo in the Portuguese goal, while at the other end Liedson forced Boubacar Barry into a good save.

Drogba was introduced, fractured arm and all, on 66 minutes and might have won the game for his side when he found space on the left-hand side of the box. But rather than bank on himself to overpower the defender and shoot - no doubt his injury playing a role in his decision - he opted to cross and there was no waiting teammate in the six-yard box to tap the ball home.

Cote d'Ivoire's next game is against Brazil in Johannesburg's Soccer City on June 20, while Portugal face Korea DPR the following day in Cape Town.

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