World Cup: Portugal vs. Ivory Coast -- Portugal struggles to a 0-0 tie.

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Ivory Coast tied 0-0 with Portugal in the teams’ opening match of the World Cup on Tuesday, largely outplaying its higher-ranked opponent 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. ‘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 organization, I think we were organized for all 90 minutes,’ Eriksson 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 warmup match against Japan on June 4.


He 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.

But Drogba had little effect on a defense that struggled to contain Lille strikers Gervinho and Aruna Dindane, Ivory Coast’s leading scorer when it was knocked out of the first round at the 2006 World Cup.

Still, Eriksson watched his Drogba move freely, largely untroubled by an injury that had threatened to prevent him from taking any part in the monthlong World Cup.

‘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.’

Ivory Coast picked up another injury problem late on when Kolo Toure went down clutching his leg and signaled 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.

Record five-time world champion Brazil plays North Korea in Tuesday’s other Group G match.

Gervinho tormented right back Paulo Ferreira until his 82nd-minute replacement by Abdul Keita.

Ronaldo’s best chance came in the 11th minute with a swerving 30-meter (yard) shot that evaded goalkeeper Boubacar Barry but bounced off the left post.

Drogba, sitting among the substitutes, reacted to the near miss by blowing out his cheeks and drawing the sign of the cross across his shoulders.

Ronaldo had already shown the less attractive side of his game three minutes earlier when he won a free kick, pushing the ball past Didier Zokora and tumbling theatrically to the ground even though replays appeared to show there was no contact.

Zokora received the first of the three yellow cards and, although Ronaldo blasted the 35-meter (yard) kick into the wall, the chance relieved the pressure Ivory Coast’s three-man attack had been putting on Portugal’s defense.

Guy-Roland Demel then brought down Ronaldo with a sliding foul in the 21st minute and referee Jorge Larrionda booked both for squaring up to each other. Demel turned away without complaint but Ronaldo argued with the official, asking what he had done wrong.

Ronaldo also tapped in from close range in the 72nd minute but the referee had already blown his whistle for offside.

-- Associated Press