11 June, 2006

Big Fish: Mexico 3 Iran 1

The BBC's special studio guest is Leonardo - not the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, but the former Brazilian footballer. Gary Lineker poses a challenging question, asking how it felt to win the World Cup in 1994. Leonardo exclusively reveals that it felt pretty good.

The Iranians continue their tradition of presenting their World Cup opponents with extravagant gifts. This time the Mexican captain Rafael Marquez receives what appears to be a huge framed painting, though it is difficult to make out what it depicts. Whatever it is, it shames the pennant given in return.

Both teams are strong within their regional confederations but underdogs on the world stage. In an open but unattractive game Mexico are marginally on top and on 28 minutes Omar Bravo puts them ahead following a free kick just outside the box. Iran respond strongly and 8 minutes later they are rewarded with an equaliser by Golmohammadi.

The second half starts scrappily. Having made three substitutions Mexico dominate much more clearly than in the first half, but they find it difficult to get into genuinely dangerous positions. This is largely due to some strong physical play by the Iranian defenders, who protect their keeper Ebrahim Mirzapour well enough that he doesn't have a save to make.

On 76 minutes Mirzapour finally gets some action, making a poor clearance and then picking the ball out of the back of the net when Bravo takes advantage of the mistake. The Mexican momentum had been threatening to fizzle out but the goal gives them a boost and Zinha scores another just 3 minutes later. Iran mount a belated counter-attack but it is too much to ask and Mexico easily defend their lead.

Judging by this performance neither team is likely to go far in the competition, but both have a decent chance of successfully negotiating a weak group which mirrors their local circumstances.

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