Portugal 2 Iran 0
Portugal booked their ticket to the knock-out stages of the World Cup following a well-deserved 2-0 victory over brave Iran.
Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side missed out on half a dozen clear-cut scoring opportunities before Deco opened the scoring with a wonder strike from 20 metres out in the 63rd minute.
Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo then sealed the game with his penalty 10 minutes from the end after Luis Figo was brought down in the area.
Former Brazil boss Scolari made three changes from the dull 1-0 victory over Angola, with Barcelona midfielder Deco replacing Simao Sabrosa on his return from ankle problems, and Maniche, who spent the second half of last season at Chelsea, and Costinha edging out Benfica’s Petit and Lyon’s Tiago.
Iran coach Branko Ivankovic decided to keep veteran striker Ali Daei on the bench just 24 hours after announcing the struggling striker would definitely start. Mehrzad Madanchi took his place up front.
Portugal needed just 33 seconds to carve out the first opening as Figo found Deco with a low cross from the right but the unmarked 28-year-old was too surprised to get off a shot.
After Maniche got close with two long-distance efforts, Miguel outfoxed two defenders with a tidy solo run on the right which was halted just in the last second.
The large Iranian support cheered every time play moved towards Ricardo´s goal, and they roared when Madanchi had a promising solo run blocked on the quarter-hour mark.
It came just two minutes after Deco had forced Iran stopper Ebrahim Mirzapour into a spectacular one-handed save with his shot from 10 yards on the left.
Portugal kept pressing as Ricardo Carvalho threatened with a header and Ronaldo did likewise with a powerful shot from the right wing.
However, Iran made their presence known in the 32nd when Andranik Teymourian rattled the left post with his shot from 13 yards out, which was flagged offside.
Ronaldo, who shook off leg problems to feature, then took over in the 34th. After Hossein Kaabi stopped his header off a Figo corner on the goal-line, the United winger hit the wrong side of the net with a powerful shot from the top right corner of the box.
Just before a fast-paced first half came to a scoreless conclusion, Mirzapour bravely diverted Miguel’s hammered shot from a sharp angle to safety.
Portugal slowly but surely picked up speed after the break, with Pauleta attacking a pin-point cross from Nuno Valente, and Mirzapour again standing tall against Ronaldo.
Portugal’s powerful play finally told in the 63rd minute when Deco broke the deadlock with a wonderful strike from 25 yards out.
Figo laid the ball off to the Barcelona star whose right-footed shot flew into the top left corner to give his country a well-deserved lead.
Iran almost produced an equaliser five minutes later, with second-half substitute Rasoul Khatibi sprinting onto a beautiful 40-yard pass and unleashing a shot from just inside the six-yard area that flew only inches wide of the right post.
Portugal, who seemed to relax after taking the lead, were fortunate that Ricardo was alert in the 78th after Ferydoon Zandi had crossed from the right. Vahid Hashemian nodded it towards the goal – only for Ricardo to jump on it.
Played switched down the other end where Figo was felled by Yahya Golmohammadi on the corner of the box.
The referee pointed to the spot, with Ronaldo holding his nerve and calmly firing home to double the lead.
Iranian resistance was far from broken but Rahman Rezaei sent his header inches past the right post before Pauleta wasted another one on one with Mirzapour at the other end of the pitch.
Ronaldo almost grabbed his second goal of the game when he met Petit’s cross, but it was ruled offside.