Netherlands, Mexico and Portugal win Cup games

12th June 2006, Comments 0 comments

12 June 2006, BERLIN - The Netherlands put themselves on course to survive the Group of Death, Iran collapsed against Mexico, while Portugal produced a slender win over outsiders Angola, and exited to whistles from their own fans in Sunday's World Cup action.

12 June 2006

BERLIN - The Netherlands put themselves on course to survive the Group of Death, Iran collapsed against Mexico, while Portugal produced a slender win over outsiders Angola, and exited to whistles from their own fans in Sunday's World Cup action.

Arjen Robben showed a goalscorer's greedy streak that could develop into a World Cup threat as the Netherlands opened their account with a 1-0 win over Serbia and Montenegro

Two goals from Omar Bravo helped Mexico to their ultimately emphatic 3-1 win over Iran, who denied the Latin Americans for long spells, while Pauleta saved red faces in his side's 1-0 win against Angola in the other Group D match.

Robben streaked clear of the Serbian defence to score the 17th minute winner in Leipzig. The Chelsea winger was sent through by Arsenal's Robin van Persie who later praised him faintly by saying he tended to forget his team-mates as he pursued blind alleys.

But Serbia coach Ilija Petkovic predicted he will be one of the players of the tournament and the 22-year-old warned there was more to come.

"I can play even better but, especially in the second half. It was so hot. The important thing is the three points," he said. "We now have to start preparing immediately for our next difficult game against the Ivory Coast."

The victory saw the Dutch draw level on points with Argentina, who defeated Ivory Coast 2-1 in the other opening group game, played Saturday, of what many see as the toughest group.

Iran looked good for a draw as Mexico failed to find a cutting edge but their defence collapsed in the closing stages, first to gift Bravo a second, and then leave Antonio Zinha unmarked to head in Mario Mendez's right-wing cross.

"You can't make mistakes like that at the World Cup," Iran's Croatian coach Branko Ivankovic said. "After that mistake it was too hard because Mexico are too experienced a team not to use that advantage."

Ivankovic said he could not understand why his team had performed so much worse in the second half. "I really don't know what it was. I don't know why they dropped (their level) so much."

Bravo broke the deadlock when Iran goalkeeper Ebrahim Mirzapour miskicked and Rahman Rezaei lost the ball to Zinha, who put Bravo clear for a clinical finish.

Yahya Golmohammadi had kept Iran in the game when he stabbed home from close range after Mexican goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez missed a corner. Bravo had opened the scoring when Guillermo Franco flicked on a Pavel Pardo free-kick.

Iran had earlier continued their charm offensive at the World Cup by presenting Mexico goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez with a bouquet of flowers before the match.

Sanchez had returned home briefly during the week for his father's funeral in Guadalajara and returned to Germany on Saturday, determined to play in what was clearly an emotional appearance.

"My father gave me the strength to play here today," he said. "What I had to do was go out and enjoy myself for him. He was up there in heaven backing me."

Portugal's record goalscorer Pauleta took just four minutes to break the resistance of Angola - but his tap-in from a Figo cross was Phil Scolari's side's only goal.

"It was important to win the game, but at times we lost our rhythm," Figo said afterwards, while Pauleta admitted there was "room to improve", though Angola had played well.

It was a nightmare start for the Africans who had lost 6-0 and 5-1 in the two previous encounters with their former colonial powers - the last meeting in 2001 abandoned with 10 minutes remaining because Angola had four players sent off and one carried off.

But there were few signs of the anticipated needle between the two, and at the end their coaches Luis Oliveira Goncalves and Portugal's Brazilian coach Luiz Felipe Scolari made a point of embracing.

Scolari had responded to the lull in second half play by taking off his Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo, who was among the livelier in the side and visibly annoyed.

DPA

Subject: German news

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