After watching the match today between two teams who are looking to try to become that second team to move on past the group stage with Brazil, it became clear to me just how one of these teams can advance. I also was able to make some key distinctions about the two teams, so first I will start with Portugal:
Cristiano Ronaldo is NOT a captain
The first thing that I recognized is that Portugal needs a new captain, someone like Deco or Ricardo Carvalho. Ronaldo, for one thing, is ruining the sport by flopping like he has just been shot by a sniper. He falls too easily and whines like a little school girl. Don’t get me wrong, he is of such great talent, but he doesn’t utilize it when he starts to get frustrated. His only bright spot was hit screamer that hit the post, but other than that he was of no factor. The sad part is, is that without him trying to make some impact on the game, the team starts to struggle. Yes he is the driving force of the team, but a captain should not carry himself in the manner in which he is carrying himself as (diving, whining, trying to get the players on the other team yellow cards, etc.).
The absence of Simao Sabrosa was a huge shock, due to his great year at Atletico Madrid and his stellar performance in the World Cup qualifiers for Portugal. When he came on the field, he made an immediate impact on Portugal (however it was spoiled thanks to the introduction of Didier Drogba for the Ivory Coast). Whether there was locker room issues, or whether he was to be used as a super sub to begin with, or whether if Danny did better in training before the match, whatever the case may be, Simao was hugely missed in the first half.
For the Ivory Coast:
Gervinho was probably the best player on the field on either side. He was a constant threat and used his pace and skill to abuse the Portugal defense. Him being substituted at the end of the match must be to keep him fresh for the next match, as I can’t think of any other reason. While Drogba was out, Gervinho was the one to step up, and the 23 year old certainly did. Be sure to look out for Gervinho during the two matches, because if the Ivory Coast is to score whether Drogba is on or off the field, it will be provided or assisted by Gervinho.
Early Crosses/More in the Box
It was clear that the Ivory Coast was the most dangerous during the match, but if I was Sven, I would be very upset with the lack of crosses in the box. While it is fine to try to beat an opponent a few times, it is unacceptable, and sometimes unnecessary, to try to beat the whole team by yourself. Salomon Kalou is one of the players that comes to mind. Many times he could have either passed it off or put the ball in the box, but instead he opted to try and dribble his way into the box. Early crosses was lacking in the side, but that also could have been because there was, most of the time, only two players in the box to receive the cross.
The last thing for the Ivory Coast is simple: shoot the ball. Too many times the Ivory Coast had opportunities to shoot the ball from far out, but instead they tried to dribble the ball in the box. I believe I only say Yaya Toure and Kalou try to shoot the ball from outside the 18. That’s easy for any defense, so some things are needed to be changed.
While I know this was the first game, it is clear that these teams are the only other team to advance with Brazil (sorry North Korea, although they did do very well today).