Group D
Mexico 3-1 Iran

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Mexico took their time to get going but eventually they were too strong for Iran and emerged 3-1 winners in the opening Group D game.

Although Iran started the game as underdogs, they were clearly undaunted by the occasion and Marquez had to make a well-timed challenge on Karimi to snuff out Iran’s first attack of the match.

The German-based Hashemian had two chances to open the scoring, first when he failed to make contact with the ball when only yards out and then moments later his angled header brought an athletic save from Sanchez.

Although Iran had the better of the opening exchanges, Mexico gradually began to assert themselves as the match progressed. On two occasions Bravo was found in acres of space on the right flank, but his delivery was poor and Iran cleared the danger.

Mexico’s best chance of a goal looked like it would come from a set-piece and so it proved on 28 minutes. Franco, in yards of space, leapt to head Pavel Pardo’s free-kick towards goal and the unmarked Omar Bravo was on hand to tap in from close hand.

However, Iran didn’t have to wait long to get back on level terms. On 36 minutes, a corner from Mahdavikia was deflected by Sanchez and the ball fell to the Golmohammadi who clipped a shot into the roof of the net. On the balance of play, Iran deserved parity at this stage.

The half time whistle offered a well-deserved breather for both sets of players who had displayed plenty of adventure and enterprise in what had been an entertaining opening period.

Mexico suffered a blow in the opening minutes of the second half when their all-time leading goalscorer Borgetti pulled up with what looked like a hamstring strain. The Bolton striker was replaced by Fonseca – a surprise omission from the original starting line-up.

The outstanding Marquez was at the heart of a wonderful piece of intricate football when he combined with Pardo before being felled in the penalty area, but the referee waved away appeals for a penalty.

As the half progressed Mexico began to dominate possession but against a disciplined Iranian team, they struggled to create any clear-cut chances.

Mexico’s pressure finally told and their second goal arrived courtesy of a terrible double blunder by the Iranian defence. The initial culprit was Mirzapour who mishit his clearance and the ball fell eventually to Rezaei who miscontrolled the ball into the path of Zinha. The substitute fed Omar Bravo who curled the ball past Mirzapour from close range.

Within two minutes the game was up for Iran when Zinha met Mario Mendez’s pinpoint cross with a firm header past the despairing dive of Mirzapour.

At the final whistle, all the Mexican players rushed to embrace keeper, whose participation was in doubt following the death of his father on Thursday.

The scoreline was perhaps harsh on Iran who played their part in an open, enjoyable match, but unless they can overcome their propensity to self-destruct then their involvement at this year’s finals looks destined to be brief.

Mexico meanwhile, remain an enigma. In the first half they looked distinctly ordinary but after the break when the influential Marquez began pulling the strings they looked a useful outfit, who on their second half performance, should breeze into the knockout stages.

Mexico: Sanchez, Salcido, Mendez, Osorio, Pineda, Marquez, Torrado, Pardo, Franco, Borgetti, Bravo.

Subs used: Luis Perez 46 (for Torrado), Zinha 46 (for Franco) Fonseca 52 (for Borgetti).

Bookings: Torrado 18, Salcido 90.

Iran: Mirzapour, Golmohammadi, Rezaei, Kaabi, Nosrati, Mahdavikia, Nekounam, Karimi, Teymourian, Hashemian, Daei.
Subs: Bakhtiarizadeh, Borhani, Enayati, Kazemeian, Khatibi, Madanchi, Roudbarian, Sadeqi, Shojaei, Talebloo, Zandi.

Subs used: Madanchi 62 (on for Karimi) Borhani 81 (for Nosrati)

Bookings: Nekounam 52

Referee: Roberto Rosetti (Italy).

Mexico: Bravo 28
Iran: Golmohammadi 36

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