Preview: Portugal v Mexico

Mexico and Portugal meet to decide the winner of Group D in Gelsenkirchen with the Mexicans keen to atone for their poor World Cup record against European sides.

    'Big Phil': Feeling the weight on his shoulders?

    The European hoodoo over the Mexican team is a strong one.

    El Tri have just one win in their past 10 World Cup matches against teams from Europe, and in four of their five matches past the first round their campaign has been ended by teams from the continent.

    Mexico's chances were boosted dramatically this week however by the decision by Portuguese coach Luiz Felipe Scolari to rest five players on yellow cards.

    Goalscorers Pauleta, Deco and Cristiano Ronaldo will join defender Nuno Valente and midfielder Costinha on the sidelines after it was deemed an unnecessary risk for any of them to collect a second yellow card and thus miss the next match.

    "The only changes I'm going to make are the five players that have yellow cards," said the coach from Brazil who led his homeland to the 2002 title.
      
    "None of them is going to play one minute, even if Mexico is winning 30-0."

    The Mexicans have their own problems with all time leading goal scorer Jared Borgetti still struggling with an injury he picked up in his side’s opening win over Iran.

    "There is no way he will be able to play against Portugal," said team doctor Milton Graniolatti.
      
    "We hope to get him fit by the end of the week for the second round."

    Mexico: Looking for a sign?

    While Portugal have ensured their first visit to the knock out stages in 40 years, the Mexicans still need a point to confirm their place.

    The sides will also have one eye on the Argentina v Netherlands game as winners and runners up of that group will face the top two teams in Group D.

    The sidelines are always a tense place but Mexican coach Ricardo La Volpe, has been ordered by FIFA to stop smoking on the touchline during games, therefore he has turned to prayer instead - his nerves are now soothed by offering up words to the Virgin of Guadeloupe.

    Will his prayers be answered?

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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