Injury hits Ivory Coast, Portugal - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Injury hits Ivory Coast, Portugal

By Nick Reeves 14/06/2010 10:33:53 AM Comments (0)

On paper Tuesday's World Cup confrontation between Ivory Coast and Portugal should be one of the gems of the first round.

Yet the build-up to the mouthwatering meeting of some of the top stars from Europe and Africa at Port Elizabeth's Nelson Mandela Bay stadium has been clouded by injury.

Portugal, making their fifth appearance in the competition, were rocked last week by a collarbone injury to Nani which has ruled the Manchester United winger out of contention.

Ivory Coast, first round casualties on their World Cup debut in 2006, had already been hit even harder with the broken arm suffered by their superstar skipper Didier Drogba in a warm up match against Japan on June 4.

The Chelsea striker underwent surgery and amazingly could still take part - he joined in a training session with his damaged arm in a sling last Friday.

Manager Sven-Goran Eriksson is hopeful his walking wounded warrior will make it.

"He is feeling better and better each day," said the former England and Mexico boss who took over the Elephants after January's Africa Cup of Nations.

Drogba, 32, is following an individual program with his right arm in a splint.

Swede Eriksson is planning to leave a decision about Drogba's participation until just before kick-off.

How crucial he is to the west Africans was evident as his teammates missed a host of chances in a 1-1 draw in a warm-up against Swiss second division outfit Lausanne last Tuesday.

While Ivory Coast, one of six African sides in this first ever World Cup on the continent, sailed through qualifying to top their group, Portugal only secured their ticket with a play-off win over Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Group G was burdened with the Group of Death label with these two teams joined by five-time champions Brazil, with minnows North Korea making up the quartet.

Given the presence of Brazil, the result of Tuesday's clash could well determine who progresses to the last 16 with European champions Spain the probable second round opponents for the second-placed finisher.

Portugal winger Simao is hoping to avoid Spain by topping the table.

"It will be difficult if Portugal face Spain in the last 16 because they are the European champions," the 30-year-old said.

He dismissed rumours that he did not get on with superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, saying he was good friends with the Read Madrid player.

"It's a lie and I don't understand it. You can ask Ronaldo and he will confirm that."

The Atletico Madrid player added: "Portugal have some of the best players in Europe with a lot of ambition and it's a very united and strong team," the Atletico Madrid player told reporters at Portugal's rural training base outside Johannesburg.

"It's always important to start the World Cup in the best way with a win. We don't want to face Brazil in the third game needing a win but if we need to win, why not? Because we have beaten them several times before."

Key to match

The Ivory Coast's chances of beating the team ranked third in the world will be immeasurably increased if Didier Drogba can make a remarkable return just 10 days after surgery.

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