Mexico 3 Iran 1: Mexicans cheered by Bravo double

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The Independent Football

Bravo Mexico. Two goals by little Omar Bravo, playing first in midfield and then as a striker, enabled them to win another entertaining encounter, after Iran wilted in the second half. Both sides may be officially ranked way above their true station - fourth and 23rd in the world respectively - but each demonstrated skill and resolution at different points of the game.

The crowd were as colourful as any so far, though confusingly so, since both countries' flag is green, white and red - Mexico's being split vertically, Iran's horizontally. The Iranians, it transpired, were in a minority, as were their female supporters, who are still banned from matches at home. There was also a smattering of English followers of both sexes, including "Millwall on tour", hitting town early ahead of Thursday's game against Trinidad & Tobago. But spectators of all nationalities must have enjoyed the lively opening half, which ended with each side having 50 per cent of the possession and level on goals.

Iran's coach, Branko Ivankovic, who has already said he is resigning after the tournament because of criticism from the 10 daily football papers, has made the most of local knowledge by selecting four of his squad from the German Bundesliga. Two of them were close to forging an opening goal in the 11th minute, Hanover's Vahid Hashemian meeting a cross by Bayern's Ali Karimi with a header that necessitated a plunging save from Oswaldo Sanchez, the goalkeeper who had returned to play after flying home following the death of his father.

Unfortunately, Sanchez would be at fault for the equalising goal. Before that he was able to watch from afar as his team slowly settled, forcing a series of dangerous corners and taking the lead from a free-kick just before the half-hour. Pavel Pardo swung it over, Villarreal's Guillermo Franco headed on into the six yard box and Omar Bravo, just onside, deftly flicked in. Eight minutes later, Sanchez did not deal with a right-wing corner under pressure and the central defender Yahya Golmohammadi drove in the loose ball.

The Mexicans' extrovert coach, Ricardo La Volpe, was clearly dissatisfied with his side's efforts, making two changes at half-time and then being forced into another sooner than he would have wanted. Bolton's striker Jared Borgetti, who had made little impression, picked up a knock and had to be replaced, so that all three substitutions had been used with more than half an hour left to play.

With their inspirational captain, Barcelona's defender Rafael Marquez, increasingly pushing forward from the back, Mexico had the better of the game and Marquez might have had a penalty when shouldered over by Golmohammadi. They deserved the victory earned with two goals in the space of three minutes as Iran lost their defensive discipline. In the 76th minute Rahman Rezaei gave the ball away to Zinha, whose pass was neatly finished by Bravo and Zinha was then left unmarked to head in a cross by Mario Mendez.

Iran's coach, Branko Ivankovic, has already announced he is resigning after the tournament because of criticism from the 10 daily football papers, which will doubtless not abate after this result. Mexico, in their 13th World Cup, seem certain to progress to the second round at least.

Mexico (3-5-2): Sanchez (Guadalajara); Marquez (Barcelona), Osorio (Cruz Azul), Salcido (Guadalajara); Mendez (Monterrey), Torrado (Cruz Azul), Pardo(America), Bravo (Guadalajara), Pineda (Guadalajara); Borgetti (Bolton),

Franco (Villarreal). Substitutes used: Perez (Monterey) for Torrado (h-t); Zinha (Toluca) for Franco (h-t); Fonseca (Cruz Azul) for Borgetti (52).

Iran (4-4-2): Mirzapour (Foolad); Kaebi (Foolad), Rezaei (Messina), Golmohammadi (Saba), Nosrati (Pas Tehran); Mahdavikia (Hamburg), Nekounam (Al Sharjah), Teymourian (Aboo Moslem), Karimi (Bayern Munich); Hashemian (Hanover), Daei (Saba). Substitutes used: Madanchi (Pirouzi) for Karimi (62); Borhani (Pas Tehran) for Nosrati (81).

Referee: R Rosetti (Italy).

Booked: Mexico Torrado, Salcido; Iran Nekounam.

Man of the Match: Marquez.

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