DURBAN: Pride not pragmatism will be the watchword when soccer powerhouses Brazil and Portugal meet in a mouthwatering World Cup clash on Friday (1400) to decide the winners of Group G.
Although whoever tops the group could meet Spain in the second round, any suggestion that either side might connive to avoid the European champions has received short shrift.
“In Brazilian national football our duty is to win every game,” defender Lucio said on Wednesday. “We play for the honour of the Brazilian shirt and the Brazilian public. We don’t pick our opponents.”
Brazil coach Dunga does not like to meddle with his team but will have to replace playmaker Kaka, who is suspended after his red card in Sunday’s 3-1 win over Ivory Coast.
Julio Baptista or Dani Alves are likely to step into midfield, where another change might be needed after Elano was on the wrong end of a dreadful tackle on Sunday.
Unlike the Brazilians, who have two wins, the Portuguese could still mathematically be overhauled by the Ivorians for a last 16 spot despite Monday’s 7-0 drubbing of North Korea.
That is highly unlikely given the nine-goal swing that would be required for Ivory Coast to catch Portugal assuming they beat North Korea and the Portuguese lose to Brazil.
Any thoughts of Portugal playing for the draw that would guarantee their progress will, however, be tempered by the memory of the 6-2 thrashing they got in their last meeting with the five-times world champions in a 2008 friendly.
“It was a big defeat for us and now have chance to beat them,” Portugal playmaker Tiago said.
“It’s not revenge, we are two great teams in a World Cup. Both teams want to go through and want to win the game. So it’s not revenge, just a game to play.”
Thrashing North Korea on Monday transformed Portugal’s World Cup prospects after an opening draw with Ivory Coast and coach Carlos Queiroz is likely to start with the same lineup.
Deco, one of three Brazilian-born players in the Portuguese squad, might offer Queiroz an extra option if he has recovered from a hip injury but Tiago’s fine form should secure his place after he scored twice against the North Koreans.
Another boost in Cape Town was Cristiano Ronaldo breaking a two-year goal drought in competitive internationals, admittedly with the rather fortunate sixth goal, which team mate Ricardo Carvalho thinks might be significant.
“He was a little bit disappointed because he wants to score in every game,” said the defender. “It’s important for him to score and for us as well because the more confidence he gets, the better for us.”
BDST: 1115hrs, June 24, 2010