Preview: Portugal v Iran

Group D favourites Portugal continue their Cup campaign in Frankfurt against a struggling Iran side on Saturday.

    On the ball: Portugal's Luis Figo at training

    The match at the Waldstadion in Frankfurt will be the first time Portugal and Iran have met on a football field, but there is no doubt the result will leave a lasting impression on both teams.

    First-up winners Portugal received plenty of criticism for failing to put former colony Angola to the sword in their meeting in Cologne last week, but coach Luis Felipe Scolari was still satisfied in securing the important three points.

    “Any victory is good, no matter how you get it. Now we've got six games to go”, a confident Scolari told the press.

    Match winning goal scorer Pauleta was a bit more reserved in his estimations of how the Portuguese are travelling early on.

    "We have to step it up if we want to go much further in this tournament. We really need to do better," the striker said.

    Portugal will be looking to secure their second round spot in the match against Iran, given their final first round clash is against the dangerous Mexico who defeated the Iranians 3-1 in their opening match.

    The south western Europeans may again be without midfield playmaker Deco who missed the Angola match due to a leg injury, with Scolari likely to rest the Barcelona player for later in the tournament.

    Ali Karimi (l) and

    Mehdi Mahdavikia
    expected to play against Portugal

    A loss to Portugal will almost certainly see Iran bow out of the tournament in the first round for the third time in as many World Cup Finals’ appearances, and with that in mind coach Branko Ivankovic may ring in the changes to get the result he needs.

    Some of Ivankovic’s changes will be forced as influential captain and striker Ali Daei is struggling with a back injury, while talented midfielders Ali Karimi and Mehdi Mahdavikia are also under injury clouds but are expected to play.

    Iran, who showed flashes of brilliance and competitiveness in their match against Mexico but fell away in the end to lose by two second half goals, should take some confidence into the game against Portugal.

    The Portuguese however are another tough assignment and it may well be another early exit for the Asians in 2006.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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