Argentina top group C, due to meet Mexico

22nd June 2006, Comments 0 comments

22 June 2006, BERLIN - World Cup co-favourites Argentina topped their group and set up a knockout match with Mexico after a goalless draw Wednesday with the Netherlands, while the Dutch headed for a clash with Portugal.

22 June 2006

BERLIN - World Cup co-favourites Argentina topped their group and set up a knockout match with Mexico after a goalless draw Wednesday with the Netherlands, while the Dutch headed for a clash with Portugal.

Two-time champions Argentina, their creative midfield anchored by Juan Riquelme, dominated much of the match, showed more class and got closer to scoring in their game to determine the winner of Group C.

But in the end, they finished first thanks to their superior goal average and on Saturday face Mexico, which ended Group D as runners- up after losing 2-1 to Portugal earlier in the day.

The Dutch said they were happy to get an extra day of rest before taking on Group D winner Portugal on Sunday in a rematch of their Euro 2004 semi-final that the Portuguese won 2-1.

The Argentine side produced flashes of the flowing passes that lit up the World Cup in their 6-0 demolition of Serbia and Montenegro, but there were few real goal chances for either side.

Argentina defender Roberto Ayala said the Dutch were a difficult opponent, "but we achieved our goal of winning the group."

We should always be a candidate for the title - it's been our aim right from the start," he said.

Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, substituted early in the second half after Ayala shut him down, said the single point "was the most we could have got out of the game".

He added: "They had the best of it, and we had to defend a lot. They're a good side and deserve respect."

Portugal took a maximum nine points from Group D, ensuring they would face the second-place team from Group C - which turned out to be the Dutch.

The Mexicans did their best to self-destruct - giving away a first-half penalty, missing a second-half spot kick and having Luis Perez sent off - but they qualify with four points.

Maniche put Portugal ahead and Simao made it two from the spot after Marquez had handled. Fonseca pulled one back for Mexico and Bravo missed a penalty after a hand-ball from Miguel.

Portugal boss Felipe Scolari was more than satisfied with his side's superb group form. He said: "I can't tell you how proud I am of what we have achieved ... Three wins in a row is very good."

Ricardo La Volpe's Mexico side needed a draw to qualify but a defeat would have left them sweating on Angola's result against Iran with the Africans still able to overtake them on goal difference.

With one eye on the next round Portugal rested Barcelona star Deco, Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo and their centre-forward Pauleta but it did little to dampen their attacking threat.

Iran and Angola, playing only for honour, settled for a 1-1 draw in Leipzig as the Iranians wasted a slew of chances and finished last in Group D behind the newcomers from Africa.

Iran failed to reach the second round on its third attempt and at the end of the game, Iranian authorities fired the head of the country's football association.

Coach Branko Ivanovic, a Croat who led Iran to the World Cup, hinted his days were numbered as well.

Angola's hopes of glory were also dashed by the draw. With Mexico losing 2-1 to Portugal in the other group game, they had needed to win by two goals to reach the knockout stage.

Second-half substitute Amado Flavio headed Angola's first World Cup goal in the 60th minute but Sohrab Bakhtiarizadeh headed a 75th minute equaliser for Iran.

Ivory Coast's players danced on the touch line after rallying from two goals down to defeat Serbia and Montenegro 3-2 in their first World Cup win, sending the Balkans side home without a point.

Chelsea striker Didier Drogba, suspended because of two yellow cards in earlier games, joined in the celebrations on a rain-soaked pitch in Munich as the West Africans left the World Cup with their heads held high.

Serbia and Montenegro were a feeble shadow of past Yugoslav teams, conceded two embarrassing penalties for handball that turned the game.

Aruna Dindane's fine double cancelled out early goals from Nikola Zigic and Sasa Ilic, and Bonaventure Kalou scored the late winner from the spot.

Both sides finished with 10 men after fussy Mexican referee Marco Rodriguez sent off Albert Nadj and Ivory Coast's Cyril Doromaud.


Subject: German news

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