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June 18, 2006

Deco back with a bang as Portugal enter second round

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June 18, 2006

FRANKFURT: A stunning strike from Deco and a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty gave Portugal a 2-0 triumph over Iran here on Saturday, sealing their place in the World Cup second round.

In an often tetchy and generally drab Group D encounter, Iran held Portugal at bay for 63 minutes.

Playmaker Deco, back in the side after injury, broke the deadlock by thumping the sweetest of right-foot shots from a left-wing cross by captain Luis Figo.

Iran, eliminated after suffering their second successive defeat, went close to an equaliser four minutes later when substitute Rasoul Khatibi shaved the woodwork.

Ronaldo made sure of victory with 10 minutes to go, clipping his spot kick high into the net after Figo was sent flying by a tackle from skipper Yahya Golmohammadi.

After converting his penalty, winger Ronaldo fell to his knees, tilted his head back and screamed with joy.

“We respected Iran but we imposed our quality,” Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said. “I thought Portugal played better than they have done in the last seven or eight games,” added Scolari, who led his native Brazil to World Cup success in Japan in 2002.

It was the first time Portugal had got through the first round since 1966 when, inspired by Eusebio, they reached the semifinals before losing 2-1 to eventual winners and hosts England.

Portugal had much more of the possession on Saturday but Iran’s defence did well to keep lone striker Pauleta quiet.

The Portuguese, who made three changes to the side which struggled past Angola 1-0 on Sunday when they brought in midfielders Deco, Maniche and Costinha for Tiago, Simao Sabrosa and Armando Petit, wasted several good chances in the first half.

Deco pounced on a Figo cross to force a fine save from Iran goal-keeper Ebrahim Mirzapour in the 13th minute.

Portugal cranked up the pressure towards the interval, Ronaldo’s powerful left-foot strike hitting the side-netting. Right

back Miguel also pushed forward, stretching Mirzapour again as the ball almost squeezed under his body.

Iran had an opportunity of their own when a header from Vahid Hashemian forced Portuguese goal-keeper Ricardo into a smart stop.

“We played a very good game but, unfortunately, it was hard to make something happen against a good Portugal team,” said Iran coach Branko Ivankovic. “It was an evenly balanced match but Deco scored a quality goal and after that it was very hard for us to equalise.”

Group D Standings

Teams P W D L GF GA Pts

Portugal 2 2 - - 3 0 6

Mexico 2 1 1 - 3 1 4

Angola 2 - 1 1 0 1 1

Iran 2 - - 2 1 5 0

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