LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo sat out Portugal’s exhibition match against Greece on Saturday and his flair was sorely missed as the two World Cup-bound teams produced a tedious 0-0 draw.
The muted game at the National Stadium in Lisbon did little to brighten the hopes of the two European teams ahead of the tournament in Brazil that begins June 12.
The under-strength Portuguese lacked a spark that could have translated their sporadic forward moves into goals. As well as Real Madrid star Ronaldo, who is recuperating from a series of leg injuries and sore muscles, Portugal felt the absence of playmaker Joao Moutinho in midfield and Pepe in the central defense.
Greece, though initially fielding its strongest team, looked ordinary and rarely got out of first gear.
“One situation we have to be prepared for is not having our regular players available,” Portugal coach Paulo Bento said. “We paid the price of our lack of effectiveness in attack.”
Portugal will start the World Cup in Group G with Germany, Ghana and the United States. Greece is in Group C with Colombia, Japan and Ivory Coast.
With Nani busy on the right flank as the Manchester United player tried to make his mark after an injury-hit league season, Portugal’s best chances came in the first 10 minutes as Greek goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis tipped over a Bruno Alves header and dived low to his right to deny Ricardo Costa.
A series of second-half substitutions sapped the game’s fluency. The Portuguese dominated possession but couldn’t break down the solid Greek defense.
Hugo Almeida found Nani unmarked on the right of the Greek penalty area in the 67th but the winger took too long to set up his shot.
In the final minutes, Giorgos Karagounis slammed a close-range shot against goalkeeper Beto’s legs.
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