Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Ivory Coast shine in goalless draw

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PORT ELIZABETH – Ivory Coast drew 0-0 with Portugal in the teams’ opening match of the World Cup yesterday, largely outplaying their higher-ranked opponents despite Didier Drogba only coming on as a late substitute.Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo hit the post early, but Ivory Coast otherwise created the better openings in the Group G match.“It was a tight game, not many occasions to score,” Ivory Coast coach Sven-Goran Eriksson said.More chances“I thought if any team was going to win, it was we. We created some more chances than they did. I am very, very happy with the performance.“If you think about discipline and organisation, I think we were organised for all 90 minutes,” he added. “They have a very good team and a lot of very good footballers, but I think we handled it very well.”Drogba came on as a 66th-minute substitute for Chelsea teammate Salomon Kalou after FIFA cleared him to play with a cast on the arm he broke in a warm-up match against Japan on June 4.Passed fitHe was only passed fit shortly before kickoff at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium and his entrance was greeted by huge cheers, with vuvuzelas drowning out drumming by Ivorian fans for the first time in the match.Drogba had little impact on a defence that struggled to contain Lille striker Gervinho and Aruna Dindane, Ivory Coast’s leading scorer when they were knocked out of the first round at the 2006 World Cup.Still, Eriksson watched his striker move freely, largely untroubled by an injury that had threatened to prevent him from taking any part in the monthlong tournament.“I spoke to him after training yesterday evening and he said he preferred to be on the bench,” Eriksson said. “He said, ‘Boss, if you need me, I am there.’ I hoped we would not need him but we wanted to win the game so we did what we did.“We did not put any pressure on him.”Another injuryIvory Coast picked up another injury problem late on when Kolo Toure went down clutching his leg and signalled to the bench for help.The central defender had treatment behind the goal line for a couple of minutes and hobbled back into action but needed repeated treatment to his left knee with just minutes left. (AP)

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