I'll never get those two hours of my life back. I spent the game clutching at the most abstruse of straws (..."maybe Pepe and Felipe Melo will have a fight"..."who has the worst hair, Duda, Pepe, or Raul Meireles?"...), but even this wasn't sufficient to prevent the crushing boredom that Brazil and Portugal inflicted upon me today. It had all the ingredients for a spectacle (former colony versus its coloniser, some of the world's most exciting players, Portugal looking to snatch top spot in group G, and to avenge their 6-2 defeat in 2008) but such allusions were soon put to bed; this was a goalless draw of precious little intrigue.
Both teams were noticably below strength; Brazil bringing in Nilmar, Júlio Baptista, and Dani Alves for Robinho, Kaká, and the injured Elano, while Portugal handed starts to Duda, Ricardo Costa, and Pepe. Of the three Brazilians making their first starts in South Africa, none truly impressed. Nilmar started well and saw a shot tipped onto the post by Eduardo, but disappeared completely in the second period. Júlio Baptista struggled to exert any influence at all, and Dani Alves just seemed content to repeatedly (and hopelessly) shoot from distance.
At the risk of making things sound more interesting than they actually were, here's a (necessarily) short list of the other things that actually occured during the 90 minutes; Felipe Melo and Pepe traded some dirty tackles until the former was substituted in the first half, Juan was lucky not to get sent-off for handling to prevent Cristiano Ronaldo going through on goal, Raul Meireles shot wide from close range, and a deflected Ramires shot needed saving by Eduardo in injury time.
That's it. If you saw the game, join me in casting it from memory. If you didn't...well, I envy you.
More significant for the seleção were actually Friday's group H matches. Spain defeated Chile 2-1 and advance as group winners, but Marcelo Bielsa's men also progress thanks to Honduras' heroic draw with Switzerland. This means that Brazil will face Chile in the round of 16 on Monday night. Despite twice beating Chile comfortably in qualifying, this will be no easy task for Brazil; la Roja have really impressed in South Africa with their daring attacking football and tactical fluidity. Whatever happens, however, it can only be an improvement on today's game.
(Photo credit; Reuters.)