This first game in Group G pits two extremely strong teams against one another in what will be an intriguing match-up at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. Carlos Queiroz’s Portugal team managed to scrape through to South Africa via the qualifying play-offs, beating a powerful Bosnia Herzegovina team to book their ticket to South Africa 2010. Ivory Coast came through their African qualification group relatively untested, as they went unbeaten in the 12-game qualification phase with Chelsea forward Didier Drogba scoring 6 goals to help them along their way.
Ivory Coast vs Portugal Odds for World Cup Match:
Ivory Coast (+259)
Over 2 (-103)
Under 2 (-112)
Portugal will be a much-fancied team for the World Cup in South Africa. The golden generation which included the likes of Rui Costa and Luis Figo is now a fading memory, but Coach, Carlos Queiroz has plenty of young talent at his disposal for South Africa 2010. Their hopes at the tournament will be pinned on superstar forward Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid). The world’s most expensive player has both the ability and the big game focus to guide the team to success at South Africa 2010. Alongside Ronaldo will be his former Manchester United team-mate and fellow forward Luis Nani, who has been much-improved this season in the Premier League and will be quietly confident of impressing the world-wide audience during the World Cup. Portugal’s defense for the tournament looks far better than it has in previous years, with the likes of Real Madrid powerhouse Pepe and Chelsea veteran Ricardo Carvalho competing with highly-rated FC Porto duo, Rolando and Bruno Alves for a place on Carlos Queiroz’s team sheet. One area opposition teams will try and exploit in this Portugal team will be the full-back positions, which could be vulnerable if the wingers on the Portuguese team sheet do what they have been known to do in the past and ignore their defensive responsibilities. First choice full backs Miguel (Valencia) and Paulo Ferreira (Chelsea) will struggle when left one-on-one. The big picture though, points to a very impressive Portuguese line-up for the tournament. No one would be surprised if they make it into the later rounds, though a place in the final is unlikely.
Considered to be Africa’s best hopes at the World Cup, the Ivory Coast possess some of the strongest players in the world. Chelsea striker Didier Drogba is in red-hot form going in the tournament after his Golden Boot winning season in the Premier League. Led by experienced coach Sven-Goran Eriksson, this Ivory Coast team seems to have all the ingredients to cause a shock at South Africa 2010. Yaya Toure (Barcelona) will be the defensive lynchpin in the heart of the Ivory Coast midfield while up front Didier Drogba and the speedy Gervinho (Lille) are the first-choice pairing, though highly-rated CSKA Moscow forward Seydou Doumbia will be one to watch if the starting choices don’t make the desired impact. It is at the back that we find Ivory Coast’s weak point. Defenders Emmanuel Eboue (Arsenal) and Kolo Toure (Manchester City), though extremely experienced, are prone to lapses in concentration, and in a group containing Brazil and Portugal, that could prove to be a key factor, as the world’s best forwards will surely pounce on any mistakes, no matter how slight. But if Coach Sven-Goran Eriksson can iron out some of the defensive flaws in his team’s game, they could be, at the very least, looking at a spot in the quarter-finals.
This game will surely be extremely open and attacking. Both teams have highly-skilled forward players who can punish any defensive mistakes, of which there should be many between these two sets of players. The favorites though, are Portugal. They have the experience and skill to overcome the best in the world and the Ivory Coast, despite their obvious talent, will find it tough to defend against Portugal’s forward players.
Ivory Coast vs Portugal Match Prediction: Portugal 3 – 2 Ivory Coast.
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