Drogba arm-ed and ready to go?
Even though this is the first game of the group, I think the winner of the match will qualify for the next stage.
For me, much depends on the fitness of the Ivory Coast and Chelsea star Didier Drogba. If he has sufficiently recovered from the fractured elbow that has blighted his World Cup preparations then it will massively improve the ‘Elephants' chances of victory.
Playing in their second successive World Cup the Ivory Coast, regarded by many as Africa's toughest team, are hoping they can manage to progress from the aptly named group of death and go further than they could manage in 2006.
Managed by former England boss Sven Goran Eriksson, much is expected back on the west coast of Africa. Many European teams would love to be able to call on some of the fantastic talent that Eriksson has at his disposal. Plying their trade in the top leagues in the world the likes of Drogba, Kalou, Zakora, Gervinho and the Toure brothers will want to do their national team proud.
Priced at 5/2 there could be a few punters sniffing around the Ivorians, especially after Ghana's victory over Serbia on Sunday. The enthusiasm of the African people could well carry the ‘Elephants' to victory.
The Portuguese were average to say the least during qualification and had to rely on the play-offs before booking their place in South Africa.
This was in no small part to a run of four games without a win, including three straight 0-0 draws, against Sweden twice and the mighty Albania.
Despite Portugal's unconvincing displays en route to the finals there are many that can see the ‘Seleccao das Quinas' impressing in South Africa, possibly even triumphing in Johannesburg come July 11th. They are priced at 23/20 to get this campaign off to a flying start.
They've exited the previous few World Cup's and European Championships in the quarter and semi-finals, so they know all about going deep in the major tournaments.
Add in to the mix that Cristiano Ronaldo (7/2 first scorer in this game) just isn't the same player he is for Portugal as the outstanding talent we've seen for Manchester United and Real Madrid over the past couple of years. If he can produce on the biggest stage in world football then he could inspire the rest of his team mates to success but far too often whilst wearing the colours of his his country he has failed to live up to his reputation.
It's not just Ronaldo either, the rest of the team are too inconsistent, Meireles (16/1), Simao (9/1) and Deco (14/1) can all be class on their day but they don't show it often enough, these three up against the likes of Yaya Toure (25/1) and Didier Zokora (40/1) will just get muscled out of the match.
Not to mention a certain Didier Drogba (4/1) who is the complete player; power, poise, pace, precision, he's got it all, and unlike Ronaldo he's been able to reproduce his stunning club form (which saw him earn the Premier League Golden Boot this season) on the international stage. If he is fit enough to lead the line he could well fire his side to an opening victory.
When looking at this game I feel that the Ivory Coast could edge out their European counterparts. If Drogba passes a fitness test I would look to the Anytime Wincast market where Drogba to score anytime and the ‘Elephants' to win can be backed at 12/5.
Other markets I would be interested in are the booking and penalty markets.
The World Cup has already seen four red cards in eight matches with referees urged to clamp down on simulation, shirt pulling and dissent. With Ronaldo running at the Ivory Coast defence and Drogba powering through the Portuguese back line there will surely be a high number of fouls and subsequent yellow cards. Therefore I will be looking towards the total cards market, over 6 at 2/1 and a penalty to be awarded at 11/4.