PORT ELIZABETH - Didier Drogba made a return to action and Cristiano Ronaldo had another fruitless outing when a stuttering Portugal were held to a goalless draw by Ivory Coast in their Group G opener on Tuesday.
Portugal failed to make an impact on a game dominated by a spirited African side that oozed confidence, even without talismanic captain Drogba, who has yet to fully recover from a broken arm, for most of the game.
Portugal's Ronaldo will have to wait for the "ketchup spurt" of goals he has promised and he switched between angry and frustrated throughout the match, with a stinging long-range shot that cannoned off the post his only real chance on goal.
Drawn in a group with five-times champions Brazil and tricky North Korea, Portugal never looked comfortable and made their job of advancing to round two no easier in a fluid but defensive game that yielded only a handful of real opportunities.
"There was only one team trying to win and build up the attack," coach Carlos Queiroz said. "But attacking was impossible with 11 players in front of us."
Wearing an approved plaster cast to protect an arm broken only 11 days ago, Drogba came off the bench in the 66th minute to a rapturous reception by the Port Elizabeth crowd.
He brought the game to life with flashes of brilliance late in the game that had Portugal on edge and sent the all-singing, all-dancing Ivorian fans into a drum-pounding frenzy.
The draw will boost the confidence of the African giants, who defended tightly, enjoyed most of the possession and always looked dangerous with plenty of energy going forward.
"To draw against the number three team in the world, it was amazing, you have to be proud," Drogba said.
"We have to be satisfied with this result because we only have a short history in the World Cup."
Their coach, Sven-Goran Eriksson, added: "It was a good game technically. Both teams didn't want to lose a game like this."
Gervais Kouassi, better known as Gervinho, started instead of Drogba and proved himself a constant menace for the Portuguese defence with penetrating runs into the area that left Ricardo Carvalho and Bruno Alvez scrambling.
Ivory Coast had the best of action with Kouassi and Emmanuel Eboue commanding the flanks and Cheik Tiote and Salomon Kalou coming close.
Danny started on the wing for Portugal in place of the match-weary Simao Sabrosa and never found his feet. He was replaced by Simao shortly the after break.
Portugal stepped up a gear later in the game without looking likely to score, with Ronaldo's darting runs failing to deliver and compounding the frustrations of a team who reached the semi-finals at the last World Cup.
Ivory Coast's next opponents are Brazil on Sunday. Portugal face North Korea in Cape Town on Monday.comments