Portugal and Brazil match promises football feast

Durban: Even without one of world football`s
biggest stars, Portugal`s World Cup clash with Brazil promises
a feast of skillful, attacking football as both teams seek to
win and avoid a possible round of 16 clash with Spain.

"Portugal and Brazil have what it takes to put on a great
football show for the world," Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz

Not surprisingly, given the pedigree of both teams and
their close cultural and historical ties, the match between
Brazil and Portugal was one of the first World Cup matches to
sell out.

The luster was taken off slightly when midfielder Kaka
was sent off in the 88th minute of Brazil`s 3-1 defeat of
Ivory Coast, meaning he will miss a showdown with Real Madrid
teammate Cristiano Ronaldo in Durban tomorrow.

Portugal midfielder Tiago said Brazil would not have a
problem filling Kaka`s boots.

"Brazil has a very strong squad," he said. "They have
other players who can step into that position."

Portugal, meanwhile, has Ronaldo back in scoring touch,
after he broke a two-year international goal drought in his
team`s emphatic 7-0 demolition of North Korea.

"Without a doubt he is a great player, he has been
showing this for a long time," Brazil captain Lucio said. "We
need to try to defend as a team, it`s key we help each other
and stay focused. We will have to pay attention to a player
like Ronaldo and also to the others."

Brazil`s defeats of North Korea and Ivory Coast
guaranteed it a place in the round of 16. It now wants to
continue its winning ways to top Group G and avoid a possible
match against fellow World Cup favorite Spain in the next

Portugal is second in the group on four points after
starting the tournament with a lackluster 0-0 draw against
Ivory Coast before hitting form against North Korea. That
means a draw is enough for a place in the next round, while a
victory will see Queiroz`s team win the group.

Portugal`s quick passing and silky ball skills have
earned the team the reputation of "Brazilians of Europe." Its
squad also includes three Brazilian-born players - defender
Pepe, midfielder Deco and striker Liedson, though they all
could start on the bench.

Deco is struggling to recover from a right hip injury
before Friday`s match in Durban`s Moses Mabhida Stadium and
may miss out even if he is fit after his replacement Tiago
gave a standout performance against North Korea.

"I don`t know if he`ll be fit in time. I hope he`ll be
able to play," Tiago said. "He`s an important player and we`ll
miss him if he doesn`t make it."

Pepe underwent knee surgery in December and only returned
to the national team two weeks ago, while Liedson did not
start against North Korea.

All three rose to stardom in the Portuguese league and
became naturalized Portuguese when Brazil failed to give them
an international call-up.

"They`re Portuguese, as far as we`re concerned," Tiago
said. "They`ve brought quality to the squad. We`re glad
they`re on our side."

Underscoring the cross-pollination between the two
football powers, two members of the Brazil squad, Luisao and
Ramires, play for Lisbon club Benfica.

"There is always a lot talked about when Brazil and
Portugal play," Luisao said. "We will have to play at our best
because they have a team with a lot of quality. We have to
respect them. Both teams have the goal to finish first so I
hope it`s going to be a good match."

Brazil has won 12 of the 18 games between the two
countries but they have met just once at a World Cup, in 1966
when a Portugal team led by Eusebio beat Brazil and the South
Americans were knocked out in the group phase.

However, the last time the two met, Brazil beat Portugal
6-2 in Sao Paulo.

Brazil has won the World Cup five times, while Portugal`s
third place in 1966 is its best finish. Portugal also was a
semifinalist four years ago in Germany, losing 1-0 to France.

Bureau Report


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