Portugal Wins Group D Mexico Falls 2-1 but Advances
Portugal went up early and managed a 2-1 victory over Mexico in Gelsenkirchen on Wednesday. But both teams advance to the round of 16.
In a battle for the top of Group D, Portugal got the better of Mexico on Wednesday afternoon in Gelsenkirchen. An early goal by Portugal's Maniche gave his team a 1-0 lead in the sixth minute and a handball in the box by Mexican captain Rafael Marquez allowed Simao Sabrosa to strike home the ensuing penalty in the 24th minute.
Mexico managed to get one back when Jose Fonseca steered in a header in the 29th minute off a Pavel Pardo corner. But in the second half with Mexico dominating play, Omar Bravo, who scored two in Mexico's 3-1 victory over Iran, misfired on a penalty after Luis Perez was taken down in the box by Miguel. Soon afterwards, Perez tried to get referee Lubos Michel to award another penalty, but instead saw yellow for diving. It was his second warning of the match and he had to leave.
The victory puts Portugal at the top of Group D, having won all its matches, and Mexico takes second with four points as Angola and Iran ended in a 1-1 draw in Leipzig. Both advancing teams, though, will face tough matches in the round of 16 with Mexico going up against the winner of Wednesday night's match between Argentina and the Netherlands. Portugal will face the loser.
"It wasn't a game where everything was at its best," said Portugal's Brazilian coach Liuz Felipe Scolari after the match. "But the way the team carried itself from beginning to end, I think it was good."
With his team already qualified before the match started, Scolari elected to rest a number of his stars, including Deco, Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal's all-time leading scorer Pauleta. "Those five won't play a single second," said Scolari prior to the match. "Not even if Mexico is winning 30-0."
As it turned out, he didn't have much to worry about. Mexico started strong but Portugal soon turned the match in its favor with Simao racing down the left side before finding an open Maniche in front of the Mexican goal. The second came as the result of a bizarre mistake by Marquez who went up to head away a cross, but brushed the ball with his fist instead.
Mexico dominated play for long stretches after that and almost equalized just before half when Bravo found Fonseca, who was named Man of the Match, in front of the goal, but his header went just wide. In the 56th minute, Fonseca -- involved in most of the Mexican attacks -- fired another shot at Portugal's keeper Ricardo but it proved too weak to get past.
The Latin Americans remained strong even after Perez was sent off and managed a number of late chances, including another ball over the crossbar by Bravo when he had only Ricardo to beat. Mexican goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez almost gifted Portugal a third goal with an ill-advised roll of the ball into the heels of his defenders in front of his box just minutes before time but Simao's shot was well high.
Mexico has now qualified for the knock-out stages in four consecutive World Cup finals while Portugal has advanced for only the first time since 1966. But the victory handed Scolari a World Cup record -- he now has 10 successive World Cup wins as a coach. He was Brazil's coach when they won the last tournament in South Korea and Japan.