The highly anticipated World Cup soccer tournament kicks off June 9 in Germany with 32 nations aiming to hoist the golden trophy one month later. Here is a look at Group-D.
Portugal, Mexico, Iran, and Angola will each be trying to be one of two teams that will continue to play in the World Cup's second round. International football commentator Derek Rae says Portugal is likely the strongest in a lackluster Group-D.
"It is a group that is, on the face of it, a bit weaker than some of the other ones. Portugal will fancy their chances," he says. "I think they will be disappointed if they do not win the group because they were really underachievers at the last World Cup finals."
Portugal's coach, Luiz Felipe Scolari, led Brazil to a record fifth World Cup title in 2002. Should his team win this year, he would become the first to coach two different nations to the coveted title. Most likely to advance with Portugal is Mexico, which has never won a World Cup. Mexico is ranked fourth in the world and is fielding perhaps its best team in decades.
Portugal and Mexico should have little trouble with Group-D opponents Iran and Angola, which is making its first-ever World Cup appearance. But Rae says Portugal should guard against emotions that could provide an unexpected edge for Angola.
"Angola and Iran might not be expected to make too much of an impression. Of course it is the first time at the World Cup finals for Angola. Nobody really expected them to get there. But they are relishing just having the opportunity to put one over [defeat] on Portugal, their former colonial masters, the draw having put the two sides together."
While playing in Germany may be somewhat of a disadvantage for many teams, Rae says Iran should be well acclimated.
"The one thing in Iran's favor is they do actually have players who are used to German conditions, who have been playing in Germany for some time in the Bundesliga," he explains. "The likes of Mehdi Mahdavikia - you might remember him as the player who scored the winning goal against the United States at [the World Cup in] France [in] '98. He plays for Hamburg. Somebody like Ali Karimi is also a man who has to be watched. Ali Karimi had made a decent start for a spell for a while with Bayern Munich."
The Iranian team will be hoping to shut out potential turmoil from fans who disagree with that nation's politics and a growing dispute over Iran's nuclear program. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a passionate football fan, and he said he is certain his nation's team can make it to the World Cup's second round.
... Payvand News - 5/20/06 ... --