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Sunday, June 18, 2006

Portugal v Iran

We have not reached the 2nd round and things are now turning to the better, in terms of entertaiment. With Mexico being held by Angola, Portugal had the opportunity to break away at the top. Iran were providing much resistence to thwart Luis Figo and co., his ball found Deco emerging and Deco's shot was superbly touched over by keeper Ebrahim Mirzapour, who proved on occasion his goalkeeping prowess. Christiano Ronaldo was his usual skilful self but his left foot effort just whistled past the post. In fact Portugal held the majority of the possession but failed to break through with the expected impact, which must have concerned Luiz Felipe Scolari. The way this game was running, it could turn into an unexpected 0-0 draw, something the Portuguese did not want. One baffling point was how the French referee Eric Poulat failed to spot the high foot of right-back Hossein Kaebi, the studs of which clearly caught Figo on the face and prompted treatment. Nonetheless, Kaebi had to handle Figo and Ronaldo, and at 20 years of age is considerably a talent in the reckoning, albeit I suspect he may have a slight temperament problem.

What ever was said at half time worked, as Portugal made more work of Iran. Figo and Ronaldo used the left wing often, potentially aiming at antagonising Kaebi's temperament or taking advantage of his naviety. Figo came down the right side and then, with Iran preferring to use numbers instead of watching the Portugal players in vicinity, Figo squared across to Deco, who struck first time across the ball to send it acutely inside the left post, Mirzapour unmoved. It was something of a reprieve on 63mins, for missing the chances in the first half. This sparked Iran into excellent play where they passed around and then dragged the ball down the right or towards the penalty box for a shot. The only thing iran lacked was that crucial final touch to execute the chance, whcih let them down terribly and often. The usually stern Ricardo Carvalho - Fernando Meira central defence was opened well but not made to pay.

Portugal gained further solitude through a penalty. Figo again down the left on the break came against Iran captain Yahya Golmohammadi and as the Inter man touched the ball past him, Golmohammadi came in with a rash challenge that didn't make contact with Figo but it's rashness cleared up any doubt instantly as Figo made the most of it. I thought Figo was the designated taker but it was Ronaldo who stepped up and with a blow of the cheeks deposited the penalty for his first. Iran came forward after that with chances they should have made the better of that could have pulled them level but it ended in elimination for them. Brave players they were and definitely a good team with potential.

Angola will have to win by four clear goals and hope for Portugal to win without conceding. Seems unlikely with Angola failing to score so far but anything's possible. The likelihood is Portugal v Mexico could be an open game if Mexico play how they did against Angola but this time finishing their chances. Portugal have Nuno Valente and Maniche Ribeiro who were excellent yesterday with their work rate and overall play, Ronaldo could be rested while on a booking.



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