Agence France-Presse . Durban
World Cup favourites Brazil clash with their former colonial masters Portugal in their final Group G match today, with the five-time champions already qualified for the round of 16.
Brazil have racked up a 2-1 win over North Korea and a 3-1 victory over Ivory Coast to sit pretty on six points. A draw would see them top the group.
Portugal, on a run of 17 matches without defeat, drew 0-0 with the Ivorians before routing North Korea 7-0 to put them in second spot in the group and needing only a draw to advance to the next round.
Even if they were to lose against Brazil, Portugal’s goal difference is such that Ivory Coast, with one point, would have to win handsomely, and then some, to be close to threatening them for second spot.
‘Brazil are going all out to win another important match - it is important to ensure top spot,’ said Brazilian playmaker Kaka, who will miss Friday’s game after his red card against Ivory Coast.
‘Okay, I know a draw will leave us top but a victory is good for confidence.’
Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz said he hoped his side would avenge a 6-2 friendly defeat to the Brazilians in 2008 - the last time they shipped six goals was in 1955.
‘We don’t want the Brazilians to score against us this time - it is a question of honour,’ said the Mozambique-born Queiroz, formerly Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant at Manchester United.
‘We must not do Ivory Coast any favours in terms of letting it go down to goal difference.’
Portuguese midfielder Tiago added: ‘Our sole interest is to beat Brazil and finish top of the group. After that we will see.
‘We want to finish top of what is a very strong and difficult group.
‘In the final match, our destiny is in our hands. We are going into the match with Brazil with the intention of winning and finishing top of our group.’
Brazil coach Dunga, who has led his side to victory in the Copa America and the Confederations Cup here last year, will likely field some reserves against Portugal.
‘We are not sure who will replace Kaka for the next game, we will think about it over the next few days,’ he said.
Dunga looks to have three options regarding his Kaka conundrum.
He can field Nilmar in attack and switch the on-form Robinho into a central role, send in Julio Baptista or push Daniel Alves forward into the engine room.
Dunga is also waiting on the fitness of Elano, who picked up a calf strain in the win over Ivory Coast, with Benfica’s Ramires on stand-by.
The winners of Group G will play the runners-up in Group H, currently topped by Chile, with Spain and Switzerland in second on three points and Honduras winless.
To date, the Brazilians have won 12 and the Portuguese four of 18 matches with two drawn.
KEY TO MATCH
Cristiano Ronaldo v Robinho
Portugal captain Ronaldo is the driver of his team and was everywhere in the 7-0 drubbing of North Korea. His battle in midfield and drive forward will be key for a team seeking a victory over Brazil, for whom Robinho has hit great form. In the absence of the suspended Kaka, all eyes will be on the Manchester City player to act as the five-time world champions’ catalyst.