Ivory Coast hold sluggish Portugal to draw

By Martin Petty

PORT ELIZABETH (Reuters) - Didier Drogba made a substitute appearance and Cristiano Ronaldo hit a post but the clash between Ivory Coast and Portugal in a World Cup Group G match on Tuesday finished in a goalless draw.

Portugal's Ronaldo rattled a post with a vicious long range free kick in the 11th minute but his team never came that close again to scoring against their African opponents.

Ivory Coast striker Drogba, who broke an arm just before the tournament, appeared as a 66th minute substitute wearing an approved plaster cast, but was also unable to put his name on the scoresheet.

Semi-finalists at the 2006 finals, Portugal struggled to make a serious impact and made their job of advancing from a fierce Group G -- which includes Brazil and North Korea -- no easier in a fluid match that yielded only a handful of goalscoring chances.

The draw will boost the confidence of the Ivory Coast, which enjoyed most of the possession and always looked dangerous with smooth passing and plenty of energy going forward.

"It was a good game technically. Both teams didn't want to lose a game like this. They had a good chance when Ronaldo shot against the post, and we had some good chances also," Ivory Coast coach Sven Goran Eriksson told South African television after the game.

Gervais Kouassi, better known as Gervinho, proved himself a constant menace for the Portuguese defense with penetrating runs into the area that left Ricardo Carvalho and Bruno Alvez scrambling.

For Portugal, Danny started on the wing in place of the match-weary Simao Sabrosa and never found his feet, despite good form in warm-up matches.

He was replaced by Simao shortly the break.

Portugal stepped up a gear later in the game without looking likely to score, with Ronaldo's darting runs failing to deliver.

Eriksson was delighted with the performance of his defense.

"Brilliant. I think for three games now they played very, very well. I'm very happy with them," he said.

Ivory Coast's next opponents are Brazil on Sunday at the Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg while Portugal face North Korea in Cape Town on Monday.

"I think we knew before that it is a very difficult group and we just have one point and let's see what we can do," Eriksson said.

(Editing by Nigel Hunt)