Group G is for Gruelling, not death

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Sometimes, prayers can be answered. After saying Portugal would benefit from a ‘Group of Death’ draw, The Portugeezer watched as Carlos Queiroz's man were paired with Brazil, Ivory Coast and North Korea.

According to a FIFA poll more than half of respondents think group G is the toughest, but let's not label it the Group of Death. Group D is perhaps the most balanced group because all the four teams – Germany, Australia, Serbia and Ghana – have legitimate aspirations to reach the last 16.

Nevertheless, few would argue that Brazil, Portugal and Ivory Coast may be able produce some of the most scintillating matches of the first round.


Brazil are perennial favourites. They have been the only team to have played in every World Cup and have won the competition five times. They also won the 2009 Confederations Cup and look a more consistent side under Dunga.

The Brazilian manager was quick to stoke the fire ahead of the match between the two Portuguese-speaking teams by sensationally claiming the match would be a contest between Brazil A and Brazil B! OK, so we happen to have three Brazilian-born players in our squad and we are also known for our technical ability (though to a lesser degree than the Brazilians).

Still, it's one of those expressions that will surely be brought up again come the time of the match. Dunga probably remembers the 6-2 humiliation his team inflicted on the Portuguese last year, but even considering the well-documented shortcomings, it will hardly be a similar match.

"Nice floodlight." "Yeah." "Where?"

That much-maligned night, everything went bad from the beginning and the Brazilians ran riot. In June, however, it will be a much closer contest for two main reasons: Portugal will have something to prove – and the Brazil players aren't as good as they were in 2002 or 2006.

Sure, they have been playing better as a whole, but they don’t instil as much fear as they did when they had Ronaldinho, Ronaldo or even Adriano in their prime. Portuguese centre-backs are better than their Brazilian counterparts and if we're able to shut down Káká and Diego in the middle, then we might just have a chance.

Ivory Coast

Of course, the approach to that match against Brazil – which will be Portugal's final group game, just like in the 1966 World Cup – will largely depend on the outcome of the first two matches, especially the opening match against a tricky Ivory Coast.

The old cliché is that despite their powerful and free-flowing football, African sides are weak at the back and lack experience – but that’s not the case with the Elephants. Emmanuel Eboué, Arthur Boka, Guy Demel and Kolo Touré all play in top European leagues and provide a reliable back-line.

Elephants: Memorable

But there’s plenty of firepower upfront with star man Didier Drogba, Abdul Kader-Keita, Bakari Koné and Salomon Kalou among others. And let’s not forget the industrious duo Yaya Touré and Didier Zokora, both capable of running the entire match. It will be a very, very tough match and one that may decide which team accompanies Brazil to the next round.

North Korea

It will be 44 years since North Korea last played in a World Cup, and while they would love to replicate their 1966 heroics when they knocked out Italy and almost shocked Portugal in one of the most thrilling matches in the World Cup history, they have already achieved their main goal.

"Guess who?"

There’s not much information on the team, but they played against Zambia last month and lost 4-1.

Everyone would be surprised if they managed to claim a single point, let alone qualify for the next round.

The final countdown

At the 2002 World Cup, Portugal were handed a relatively easy draw alongside United States, South Korea and Poland – and returned home empty-handed. This time though, not only is the group stronger, but should Portugal go through to the next round, there’s a big chance they will meet Spain.

So basically, there’s no way to avoid confrontations with the big sharks! For better or worse, Portugal will have to sweat blood to get something at the biggest sporting event in the world. The Portugeezer can only hope so...

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