What: 2010 FIFA World Cup
Who: Ivory Coast vs Portugal (Group G)
When: Tuesday 15th June, 2010, at 15:00 UK Time
Where: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Group of Death

Playing their second successive World Cup, the Ivory Coast are in for a real treat as they were drawn in Group G, labelled by many pundits as the group of death, as it harbours Brazil, Portugal and North Korea.

The Elephants might just be the toughest African side in this World Cup, but they will need something extra to qualify for the next round. Their work starts from day one as they are set to face 2006’s semi-finalists Portugal, where a positive result would see them square off against record holders Brazil with sky-high spirits.

Former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson certainly has his fair share of superstars to use in this tournament. However, his star-man Didier Drogba will not be 100% fit after his recent elbow fracture, making his potential absence a source of headaches for the Swede.

Not a One-Man Team

Portugal have been fairly criticised recently over their dependence on Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, with critics going as far as to nullify his country’s chances of winning in his absence. However, coach Carlos Queiroz’s team hit back at their detractors with a comfortable win recently over Mozambique.

Indeed, many expect the “Seleccao das Quinas” to triumph in this World Cup. While the loss to eventual finalists Germany at Euro 2008 undid years of progress during Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup, the general feeling is that Portugal have learned from their previous mistakes, and will make sure they hit the jackpot this time round.

On the pitch, the inclusion of central defender Pepe after a six-month hiatus has been a massive boost for Queiroz. It is true that the former Porto stopper is lacking the required match fitness to be a starter, but he is certainly well on the road to recovery.

Recent form

Ivory Coast:
Ivory Coast 0-2 South Korea (03/03; Friendly)
Paraguay 2-2 Ivory Coast (30/05; Friendly)
Japan 0-2 Ivory Coast (04/06; Friendly)

Portugal 0-0 Cape Verde (24/05; Friendly)
Portugal 3-1 Cameroon (01/06; Friendly)
Portugal 3-0 Mozambique (08/06; Friendly)

Players to watch

Ivory Coast – Gervinho: In the wake of Drogba’s potential absence, Lille star Gervinho will be expected to shine during this tournament, and could probably be one of its surprises. After all, he doesn’t have a Brazilian nickname for nothing.

Portugal – Raul Meireles: While the cameras will be following Ronaldo’s every move, expect team anchor Meireles to have a hand in any Portuguese triumph. The Porto central midfielder was brilliant in the recent match against Cameroon, scoring two of his team’s three goals.

Match prediction

Didier Drogba’s potential absence could prove to be severe for the Ivory Coast, leaving their attack a bit toothless. While the 1992 African Nations Cup winners will be a serious threat to their foes, Portugal nonetheless have what it takes to grind out a vital 2-1 win.

Don’t forget: If you fancy a bet on this exciting game, you can find and compare the prices of all major online bookmakers at tip-ex.com.