Most football (soccer) experts consider Ivory Coast to be the most talented African team sanctioned by FIFA this year, and they may have been proved right today.

Ivory Coast earned a draw against Portugal in the opening match of Group G at Nelson Mandela Stadium, outperforming its higher-ranked opponent despite playing most of the game without its best player, Didier Drogba.

Portugal is ranked among the top five football teams in the world but struggled against the defense of Ivory Coast.

“It was a tight game, not many occasions to score,” Ivory Coast coach Sven-Goran Eriksson told reporters. “I thought if any team was going to win, it was . We created more chances than they did. I am very, very happy with the performance. If you think about discipline and organization, I think we were organized for all 90 minutes.”

Coach Eriksson is even more pleased with how well his squad played without Drogba, who didn’t touch the field until the 66th minute. Drogba was cleared by officials to play with a cast on his right arm, which was fractured during the warm up games just weeks ago. He moved well on the field, showing little irritation from his injury.

“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.”

Drogba couldn’t get his teammates a win, but they’re not complaining about the draw.

Ivory Coast will next face five-time world champion Brazil on June 20, while Portugal will see its next action against Korea on June 21.


Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor