Portugal and Ivory Coast played out a dull goalless draw in their World Cup Group G opener in Port Elizabeth.
The African outfit were arguably the better side, but Portugal came the closest to winning the match when Cristiano Ronaldo hit the woodwork with a thunderous strike.
Ivorian striker Didier Drogba had to settle for a place on the substitutes’ bench with manager Sven Goran Eriksson seemingly reluctant to take a risk on the Chelsea player’s recently broken arm.
In the early stages, Portugal looked to set the tempo, with the world’s most expensive player, Cristiano Ronaldo, prominent in the opening exchanges. The Real Madrid man was brought down on a couple of occasions to earn free-kicks, the second of which resulted in him lashing a free-kick into a wall. He almost made amends moments later when he unleashed a stunning effort from 35 yards, only to see it rebound off the post.
Eriksson’s men responded with two long-range efforts of their own. First, Siaka Tiene hit a tame free-kick wide of goalkeeper Eduardo’s goal. Then Cheik Tiote bent a shot over the crossbar from 20 yards out.
The Ivorians started the second half the brighter, with the impressive Gervinho striking across goal, forcing Eduardo to turn the ball out for a corner. And that set the tone for much of the rest of the half as Portugal, who seemed utterly reliant on Ronaldo for their creative input, looked content to contain their opponents.
Coach Carlos Queiroz brought on Simao for the disappointing Danny, but it was the arrival of Didier Drogba midway through the half that brought the biggest cheer of the night. Yet, despite his rapturously-greeted entrance there was to be no dramatic intervention from the Chelsea man. One trademark burst into the box culminated with a weak shot across the face of the goal, and although the Ivorians were pressing hard at the end, both teams seemed content to keep their powder dry for the battles that lie ahead. Which of the two sides will come to regret their lack of ambition, remains to be seen.