DURBAN, South Africa — What was supposed to be a World Cup classic between two teams known for their attacking flair turned into a huge letdown Friday, with Portugal’s 0-0 draw against Brazil light on quality football and full of yellow cards.
Brazil and Portugal are supposed to be friendly nations with a shared language and colonial past.
But there was no love lost in Friday’s first half in Durban. Four Portugal players and three from Brazil were booked before the break.
Tempers cooled with the night air in the second half, but so did the match’s intensity as the most keenly anticipated first-round fixture fizzled out and the players were jeered at the final whistle.
“We were expecting much more than that,” a Brazil fan who identified himself as Chiago said outside the ground. “We played a lot in defense, we didn’t attack very much.”
Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz, however, said he was happy with the result and his players’ performance after the draw which saw Portugal secure second place in the group and progress to the round of 16. Brazil already was assured of qualifying before the match, but made sure of top spot in Group G with the draw.
“I think it was a great spectacle, a football feast,” Queiroz said with a straight face. “Brazil played very strongly in the first few minutes but after that initial period of domination … Portugal slowly started to control the game. Attacking whenever it had possession.
Brazil coach Dunga was less impressed, effectively accusing Portugal of strangling the spectacle with defensive tactics aimed at a draw.
“It was a difficult game. The Portuguese team defended from the midfield backwards which made it very difficult for us to penetrate,” he said. “It was a very tough game — there were quite a few fouls committed, which made it difficult for our team.”
In fact, Brazil committed 18 fouls to Portugal’s 11, according to the official match statistics.
First into Mexican referee Benito Archundia’s book was Luis Fabiano of Brazil for a late challenge on Pepe in the 15th minute. Ten minutes later Brazil defender Juan was cautioned for a deliberate hand ball and Portugal’s Duda followed him after screaming at the referee that he should have sent Juan off.
Tiago was next, in the 31st minute, for a blatant dive in Brazil’s penalty area. Nine minutes later, Pepe was carded for a foul on Felipe Melo. When the Brazil defender returned the compliment by body checking Pepe three minutes later, he too was cautioned and Dunga almost immediately substituted him as tempers frayed on both sides.
Fabio Coentrao of Portugal made it 4-3 in cards at half time when he was booked for a foul just before the break.
The calmest man on the pitch was Cristiano Ronaldo, who was carrying a yellow card from his team’s 0-0 draw with Ivory Coast and clearly did not want to risk another, that would have ruled him out of Portugal’s next match.
Quieroz substituted both Duda and Pepe early in the second half, most likely to ensure that neither picked up another card and a suspension for the round of 16.
As bad as the first-half was, it paled in comparison to Portugal’s 1-0 defeat of the Netherlands at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, a match marred by countless fouls, four red cards and 16 yellows.