Portugal vs. Ivory Coast in key 'Group of Death' match

Today’s Portugal vs. Ivory Coast match is the most important match for the 'Group of Death' and it features one of the world's best strikers, Portugal's Christiano Ronaldo.

Armando Franca/AP
Didier Drogba will not be in the starting lineup for today's Portugal vs. Ivory Coast match, but he has been cleared to play with a cast for his broken arm and could come off the bench.

With Brazil almost certain to qualify from Group G, today’s game between Portugal and the Ivory Coast could be decisive for both teams.

Unfortunately, it’s the opener for both sides and neither will be taking any chances. Conventional wisdom is that It’s more important not to lose your first game in the World Cup than it is to win it. Which is a shame, because they are two teams capable of playing attractive football.

The big doubt for the Ivory Coast surrounds the fitness of Didier Drogba, who broke his arm in a friendly against Japan last weekend. Hours before the match, news broke that he would not be in the starting lineup. Whether he'll come off the bench later in the game remains to be seen.

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This is a huge loss for Ivory Coast as he is not only their best striker, but also their talisman. His influence is almost as important as his goals.

But Ivory Coast has the players and the experience to back up Drogba.

Salomon Kalou, Emmanuel Eboué and Yaya Touré all play for major European teams.

Ivory Coast’s future in the tournament will hinge on whether they are ready to take on the responsibility that would have fallen on Drogba’s shoulders.

For Portugal, meanwhile, this is the last chance for many of their latest golden generation.

Cristiano Ronaldo is still young but it is probably the last World Cup for Ricardo Carvalho, Deco, Simão Sabrosa, and Liedson, the Brazilian-born striker who will be relied upon to get the goals.

They would be delighted to repeat their performance in Germany and get to the semi-finals. The chances of that, though, are slim. If they do get past the Ivory Coast their most likely opponents in the next round are Spain.

Don’t go betting on Portugal this time around.

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