2010 World Cup: Brazil v. Portugal

Anticipation weighs heavily as Brazil and Portugal prepare for a win at Durban Stadium. (ESPN will begin live coverage at 9:30 a.m. EST.). Brazil has secured victories against North Korea (2-1) and Côte d’Ivoire (3-1). But they’ll face Portugal without their star midfielder Kaká, who controversially received a second yellow card during Brazil’s last game, when, in positioning his arm to protect his body, collided with Côte d’Ivoire’s Kader Keita. Keita immediately fell to the ground, face in his hands, with refs calling foul and the New York Times calling it great acting. Without the prospect of Kaká, it’s certain that Coach Dunga has toiled over what Brazil’s strategy will be.

Meanwhile, Portugal, who tallied a scoreless game against Côte d’Ivoire, and who pounded North Korea with a whopping seven goals to none, could potentially seize upon this newfound opportunity to prevail, which is precisely what Portugal’s history pages tell of in years past.

Zeal for Conquest v. New Momentum

When Portugal’s Bartolomeu Dias rounded Africa’s Cape of Good Hope in 1488, he became Europe’s first citizen to do so. Ten years after him, Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama would follow Bartolomeu’s path around the Cape of Good Hope, but navigate up Africa’s east coast, intent on reaching India’s city of Calicut. When he did he became the first European explorer to reach India’s subcontinent by sea. By the 16th century, Portugal was building colonies in the Madeira Islands and the Azores, Goa, Malacca, Hormoz, and of course, Brazil, where the language of its colonial heirs is still spoken today. 

Brazil, with its samba music, soft sand beaches and the iconic Cristo Redentor presiding over Rio de Janeiro, is where all the world’s eyes will turn for the next iteration of the World Cup in 2014, not to mention the 2016 Olympic Games. This former Portugese colony now boasts a larger population in its largest city–São Paulo–than all of Portugal combined. Brazil’s diverse citizens boast a multitude of backgrounds, the majority with roots in Europe and Africa.

Its national flag announces, “Ordem e Progresso” (order and progress), and at a time when its leaders are pursuing ways to protect its Amazon by aggressively cracking down on illegal logging, the country’s growing legacy is eager to awe. Its name, like its land, population, and five World Cup championship titles, is mighty.

Portugal, on the other hand, has never surpassed the World Cup semi-finals.

Should they harness their earlier notions of conquest, they may stand to defeat Brazil, who, in light of losing Kaká for this game, may find its team stunted in both confidence and performance.

Photo: Portugal fans in Geneva by MrTopf via Flikr