World Cup Group D Analysis: MEXICO's Group

The Aztec gods must have found their way to Leipzig on Friday and smiled down on Mexico at the World Cup 2006 draw. The Tricolores, top seeds in Group D, escaped the most troublesome teams that weren’t seeded, such as Holland and South Korea, and instead will face Iran, Angola, and Portugal. The group opens play with Mexico-Iran in Nuremburg on Sunday, June 11.

The CONCACAF heavies are ranked #7 in the world, and had a strong performance at this year’s Confederations Cup. But next summer, they hope to improve on their disappointing 2002 finals, when they fell to the USA in the round of 16. They are led by Bolton striker Jared Borgetti; Barcelona defender Rafael Marquez; and prolific scorer Francisco “Kikin” Fonseca, who has scored 15 goals in 20 international caps. This Mexican squad is full of confidence and if things fall their way, has an outside to go very far in the finals.

Iran are traditionally one of Asia’s best teams but they have struggled recently, having failed to qualify for the 2002 World Cup. Now they are back. Ranked #19 by FIFA, Iran possesses a lots of experience in goal-scoring machine Ali Daei and midfielder Mehdi Mahdavakia, and the reigning AFC Player of the Year, Ali Karimi. Led by Croation coach Branko Ivankovic, they a nice blend of skill, experience, and grit to prove a dangerous opponent.

The wildcard in the group, Angola are making their debut at the World Cup finals. Somehow they qualified ahead of African powerhouse Nigeria, even earning a point on the away leg of the Nigeria tie. They are coached by the “Professor” Luis Oliveira Goncalves, and led by former Benfica star Akwa, who had three goals in qualifying. Most likely, Angola will struggle to earn one point at the finals.

The underachievers of the football world, Portugal have much to prove, and they started during qualifying, when won 9 of 12 matches, scoring 35 and conceding only 5. The Golden Generation of Figo and Rui Costa are still involved though past their prime, and Luis Filipe Scolari’s side is now led by young exciting players like Pauleta, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Deco. Assuming they can get over their own psyche, Portugal have a legitimate shot to contend for the trophy.

There is very little history between the four teams in Group D. Mexico has played Iran once, winning 2-1; and Portugal has beaten Angola twice, by a combined score of 11-1.

Early Prediction
Mexico and Portugal should qualify for the next round easily.