Mexico 3 Iran 1
Two goals from Omar Bravo gave Mexico a winning start to their World Cup campaign as Ricardo Lavolpe’s team overcame Iran at Nuremberg’s Frankenstadion.
Bravo gave his side the lead 28 minutes into the game with a close-range effort before Yahya Golmohammadi levelled for the Iranians eight minutes later.
But Bravo restored his team’s advantage 14 minutes from time after the Iranian defence hit the self-destruct button, and three minutes later Brazil-born midfielder Zinha sealed the win for Mexico with a well-placed header.
Mexico’s two goals in a little over two minutes killed off an Iran team who had been in the ascendancy early in the game but sat back as the match went on, offering little threat in the second period.
With Javad Nekounam and Andranik Teymourian controlling the central midfield area, the Iranians were in command for most of the opening exchanges and Branko Ivankovic’s side looked destined to open the scoring.
Mehdi Mahdavikia’s long-range effort with three minutes on the clock did little to trouble Oswaldo Sanchez in the Mexican goal but eight minutes later the 33-year-old pulled off a spectacular save to deny Vahid Hashemian.
Mahdavikia fed Hossein Kaabi down the right side and his centre seared across the face of the goal, only to be missed by Hashemian.
The ball fell at the feet of Ali Karimi on the left and his cross was met powerfully by Hashemian, but his well-directed header was superbly pushed around the left upright by the sprawling Sanchez.
As the half progressed, though, the Mexicans looked more and more likely to score, especially from a set-piece.
After a number of corners caused consternation in the Iranian defence - including one which saw Guillermo Franco glance his header across Ebrahim Mirzapour’s goal – the Mexicans took the lead in the 28th minute.
Mexico were awarded a free-kick on the right side of the field, 10 yards from the touchline, after Karimi was adjudged to have handled the ball and Gerardo Torrado’s centre was headed into Bravo’s path by Franco before the Guadalajara striker sidefooted the ball home.
But Iran refused to roll over and with nine minutes to go to half-time, the Persians were back on level terms.
Yet again Mahdavikia was involved, this time sending in a corner from the right which was met by Rahman Rezaei, whose header cannoned back off Sanchez to the feet of Golmohammadi and the veteran central defender fired high into the net from close range.
In contrast to the opening 45 minutes, the second half started at a pedestrian pace as the Iranians appeared to be keen to contain Mexico and begin their World Cup campaign with a draw.
Everything seemed to be going to plan until the game entered the final quarter of an hour when Mirzapour’s poor distribution finally hurt his team.
The goalkeeper miskicked a clearance before Rahman Rezaei gifted possession to Zinha, whose perfectly weighted pass left Bravo with the simplest of finishes.
Three minutes later the Mexican victory was all but guaranteed when Zinha appeared unmarked in the penalty area to head past Mirzapour and give Mexico the perfect start to the World Cup.