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Drogba returns, but Ivory Coast ties

Photo by Daniel Kay

Photo by Daniel Kay

PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa -- Didier Drogba made an unlikely return to action midway through the second half of Ivory Coast's World Cup opener against Portugal on Tuesday, only 11 days after breaking his right arm.

Cleared to play shortly before kickoff, his entrance as a 66th-minute substitute was greeted by huge cheers.

But not everyone was happy to see him on the field.

While FIFA allowed Drogba to wear a special protective cast after it was examined by the match referee, Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz suggested soccer's governing body may have bent its rules because of the "cultural significance" of a player hugely popular in Africa taking the field.

"The FIFA delegates decided that the referee's decision is final," Queiroz said. "This was a bit odd as far as we were concerned because there are rules and regulations that say, for example, that players cannot play with a string bracelet or a plaster.

"The solution presented at the meeting was not necessarily one we knew about. I would like to know that all the rules are the same for everybody."

Drogba hurt his right arm in a warmup match against Japan on June 4, undergoing surgery and sitting out several training sessions to recover.

FIFA said Tuesday that all parties, including referee Jorge Larrionda of Uruguay and Portuguese team officials, were satisfied the cast did not pose a danger to other players.

g New Zealand 1,

Slovakia 1: Winston Reid scored in second-half injury time Tuesday, lifting New Zealand to a draw with Slovakia.

Robert Vittek scored early in the second half, giving Slovakia the lead in World Cup Group F. But Reid sneaked behind the defense to take a long cross from Shane Smeltz and tie it.

The Kiwis are ranked 78th in the world, 44 spots above Slovakia, which is in its first World Cup as an independent nation.

All four teams have one point in Group F. Italy and Paraguay drew 1-1 Monday.

Reid's strike gave New Zealand its first point at a World Cup after going winless in its 1982 debut.

g Brazil 2, North Korea 1: Maicon and Elano scored a goal apiece in the second half and Brazil broke through a solid North Korea defense to win its first 2010 World Cup match on a frigid Tuesday night.

Brazil escaped with a victory in the Group G match after struggling to get past the defensive setup of the North Koreans, who are making their first World Cup appearance in 44 years and are the tournament's lowest-ranked team.

Maicon put Brazil ahead in the 55th minute after a through ball from midfielder Elano -- making a run on the right side and firing into the far corner from a tight angle as North Korea goalkeeper Ri Myong Guk went for the cross.