Brazil take on one of Africa’s biggest teams, knowing that a win will all but qualify them for the second round. But the Ivory Coast have designs on an impressive opener against Portugal, aware that a draw will set them up well for a showdown with North Korea.
Ivory Coast have some of the best Africans in their ranks: the goal-hungry Didier Drogba is surrounded by current and former Premiership stars Emanuel Eboue, Didier Zokora, Aruna Dindane, Kolo Toure and Chelsea teammate Salomon Kalou. Goals are no issue for this team, and they are marshaled well by experienced defenders – the team’s main weakness would be the tendency to play on the wings as the centre of midfield can be particularly weak.
For Brazil, who showed a composed if not spectacular performance to beat North Korea 2-1, the object of this game is not an opportunity to showboat but to get the needed result to be sure of qualification when playing Portugal in the group’s final and most eagerly anticipated tie. A carbon-copy of that team will present itself for tomorrow evening’s kick-off. With most players in their ranks a definite goal-threat, something particularly special will be needed to break through Zokora and Toure’s defensive partnership – which could be where Luis Fabiano, Brazil’s most accomplished forward, shows his worth. Tall, good in the air and with an enviable strike rate, Fabiano could be the man to unlock Brazil’s attacking ability.
After settling the nerves against North Korea, Dunga will field a more confident side to take on Ivory Coast. Not one for being shy, Drogba will push Lucio and Juan all the way but may find that the best disciplined duo in this year’s competition are too difficult to overcome. Brazil certainly have the firepower but will not win by a landslide, thanks to the strict management of their coach, Dunga.