Fri, Jun 23, 2006 - Page 22 News List

World Cup: Portugal beat Mexico for perfect record

THREE OUT OF THREE Portugal finished top with 9 points, securing a date with the Netherlands after a hard fought win over Mexico in their final Group D match

AP , GELSENKIRCHEN

Nuno Gomes, left, of Portugal and Rafael Marquez of Mexico fight for the ball during their Group D match in Gelsenkirchen on Wednesday.

PHOTO: EPA

Group D

Portugal 2, Mexico 1

Portugal completed a perfect first round at the World Cup on Wednesday with a 2-1 victory over Mexico in Group D.

Maniche and Simao Sabrosa scored in the first 25 minutes before Kikin headed in a 29th-minute corner for Mexico, which qualified for the next round as runner-up in the group.

Mexico's Omar Bravo hit a second-half penalty over the bar and his team faded after Luis Perez was sent off with 30 minutes left.

Portugal had already advanced to the second round and will play the Netherlands in Nuremburg on Sunday. Mexico will play in Leipzig on Saturday against Argentina.

Angola exited after drawing 1-1 with already eliminated Iran.

"Things couldn't be better," Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said. "This was as tough a game as we had expected, but I asked my players today to make it hard for me to pick my team for the next round, and they did that."

With his team already qualified for the next round, Scolari spared five key players on Wednesday because they were on yellow cards and one more would have left them suspended for the next game.

Even so, Portugal extended their unbeaten run to 17 international games, during which they have conceded just six goals.

"There are three games to go till the final, and they're the hardest," Scolari said. "We just have to keep working hard each day."

The absentees included playmaker Deco, winger Cristiano Ronaldo, and all-time top scorer Pauleta.

Mexico, which had lost two of its last 12 World Cup games against European opposition, needed just a draw to advance and started cautiously with six defenders.

Even so, Mexico attacked early on and Kikin slalomed past three defenders to get into the area before shooting straight at the goalkeeper.

"We started very well," Mexico coach Ricardo Lavolpe said. "We had control for long periods but when you have the ball you have to score, and we even missed a penalty."

Portugal replied with a clinical attack as Simao charged down the wing and pulled the ball back for Maniche to beat goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez.

Mexico captain Rafael Marquez then used his hand to prevent Fernando Meira heading the ball toward goal, and Simao hit the resulting penalty just beyond Sanchez's reach.

Scolari spent most of the match standing on the touchline shouting instructions to his team. Two of them -- left-back Marco Caneira and striker Helder Postiga -- were playing in their first World Cup.

Mexico's Omar Bravo, alone at the back post, then went close with a close-range shot that ricocheted off the goalkeeper and onto the crossbar.

Just before the interval, Mexico's Pavel Pardo forced a spectacular save from Ricardo Pereira with a shot from outside the area.

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