Portugal through, Iran out

Portugal are the sixth team to secure their place in the second round of the 2006 World Cup Finals after a hard fought 2-0 victory over Iran at the Waldstadion in Frankfurt.

    Portugal celebrate their second round berth

    Two goals in the second half, a stunning strike by Barcelona midfielder Deco and a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty, were enough for fans back home in Lisbon to start celebrating their team’s progression from the group stage.

    Unfortunately for Iran, they are now out of the running for the Cup along with Poland, Costa Rica, Paraguay, Ivory Coast and Serbia & Montenegro, after losing both of their matches so far.

    Brazilian born midfielder Deco broke the deadlock in the 63rd minute with an audacious strike from outside the box after a nice pass from Captain Luis Figo, the diminutive midfielder’s shot creeping inside the left post with Iran keeper Ebrahim Mirzapour well beaten.

    Deco enjoyed scoring his goal

    Figo was then brought down just inside the box in the 79th minute with Cristiano Ronaldo stepping up to take the penalty and making no mistake.

    Iran played well and had a few chances to score, but Portugal dominated possession with the match stats showing 12 Portugal corners to Iran’s 1, and 10 shots on target for the Europeans to the Asian side’s 1.

    Cristiano Ronaldo tested Mirzapour in the 55th minute with a stinging left foot strike, however the Foolad FC shot stopper was up to the task.

    Iran coach Branko Ivankovic took immediate action after Deco’s goal, subbing on Rasoul Khatibi, with the Sepahan Isfahan striker going awfully close just three minutes after coming on when Portuguese defender Fernando Meira misjudged a long ball leaving the Iran substitute striker in on goal.

    Khatibi was forced wide however, and his scuffed shot went across the face of goal.

    Vahid Hashemian had a great equalising chance when he headed towards goal off substitute midfielder Ferydoon Zandi’s cross, but Portuguese keeper Ricardo was quickly across with a good diving save.

    Early action

    In the first half, a chance fell to Deco in the first minute after some enterprising work from Figo, but the diminutive Barcelona midfielder was unable to get his shot away.

    Iran were awarded two free kicks in good range, the second headed on by Sharjah midfielder Javad Nekounam but wide of goal.

    Deco did get a shot off in the 13th minute but it was well saved by the outstretched arm of Mirzapour, and seconds later Mehrzad Madanchi was put through on goal down the other end of the field, but the ball didn’t quite sit well enough for him to unleash a shot.

    Angola's chance

    Portugal now play Mexico in Gelsenkirchen on Wednesday June 21, in a match that will decide the winner of Group D.

    Iran get a consolation match also on the 21st against Angola, who are still an outside chance of qualifying for the second round at the expense of Mexico.

    The Africans must win against Iran and Mexico must lose against Portugal, with both results causing a goal difference swing of at least three goals in order for Angola to do the improbable at their first World Cup Finals.

    The qualifying teams from Group D will face either Argentina or Netherlands in the round of 16.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera


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