Portugal 2 Iran 0: Scolari must keep key players' powder dry

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The Independent Online

After winning their first two Group D games and booking their spot in the knock-out phase, Portugal can relax and give some new faces a run-out in their final game against Mexico on Wednesday. A superb Deco strike and a penalty converted by Cristiano Ronaldo gave Portugal a 2-0 win over Iran in Frankfurt on Saturday.

Luiz Felipe Scolari can now tweak his side to take into account fitness and the disciplinary situation. "We have already qualified so we can look at yellow cards, injuries and other details and we will be able to rest some players," Scolari said.

Costinha, Deco and Pauleta picked up bookings in Saturday's game, while Ronaldo and Nuno Valente both have a caution from the Angola match.

Portugal face formidable opponents in the next round. But Scolari and his players found it difficult to choose between the favourites, Argentina, who put six past Serbia & Montenegro on Friday, or the in-form Netherlands. Those two meet on Wednesday.

"The Netherlands and Argentina are two big teams so it is impossible to judge," the goalkeeper Ricardo said. "In 90 minutes one of those teams can have an off day and can be eliminated, so there's no point in choosing who we would prefer at this stage," Scolari said.

But the midfielder Tiago insisted Portugal were still determined totop the group so the game against Mexico in Gelsenkirchen would be no damp squib. "We will be more relaxed, but we do want to keep first place. Mexico are a good team and need the points, so it will be a good match," he said.

Portugal: Ricardo (Sporting); Miguel (Valencia), Meira (Stuttgart), Ricardo Carvalho (Chelsea), Nuno Valente (Everton), Costinha (Dinamo Moscow), Maniche (Chelsea), Deco (Barcelona), Ronaldo (Manchester United), Pauleta (Paris St-Germain), Figo (Internazionale).

Substitutes used: Petit (Benfica) for Maniche, 66; Tiago (Lyon) for Deco, 80; Simao (Benfica) for Figo, 88.

Iran: Mirzapour (Foolad); Kaabi (Foolad), Golmohammadi (Saba Battery), Rezaei (Messina), Nosrati (Pas Tehran) Nekounam (Al Wahda), Mahdavikia (Hamburg) Karimi (Bayern Munich), Teymourian (A Moslem), Madanchi (Persepolis), Hashemian (Hanover 96).

Substitutes used: Bakhtiarizadeh (Saba Battery) for Golmohammadi, 88; Zandi (Kaiserslautern) for Karimi, 65; Khatibi (Pas Tehran) for Madanchi, 66.

Booked: Portugal Pauleta, Deco, Costinha; Iran Nekounam, Madanchi, Kaabi, Golmohammadi.

Referee: Eric Poulat (France).

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