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FOOTBALL

Portugal dispatch Iran to march on

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Ronaldo is mobbed by teammates after slotting home his penalty.

FRANKFURT, Germany -- An inspired strike from midfielder Deco set Portugal on their way to the knockout stages of the World Cup with a 2-0 win over Iran in Frankfurt.

The Barcelona star marked his debut in the finals with a rasping drive from just outside the penalty area just after the hour mark. A Cristiano Ronaldo penalty on 79 minutes sealed the win on Saturday.

Until then Portugal had dominated but failed to take advantage of a series of chances against limited opposition who are now eliminated.

Iran's best chance came moments after Portugal's initial breakthrough as substitute Rasoul Khatibi dribbled his shot wide when clear on the left.

Vahid Hashemian's powerful header also forced a smart stop from Ricardo.

But with Iran pressing hard for an equalizer, Portugal's veteran Luis Figo burst clear on the left and was pulled down in the penalty area by Yahya Golmohammadi.

Manchester United's Ronaldo struck a crisp penalty past keeper Ebrahim Mirzapour.

Portugal, who won their opening match against Angola 1-0, now have six points from two games ahead of their final group encounter with Mexico, needing just a draw to top the section.

Iran, beaten 3-1 by Mexico in their opening encounter, have only pride to play for in their final group meeting with Angola, who can still qualify with a victory.

Playmaker Deco was one of the three changes to the Portugal starting lineup and he forced a fine save from Mirzapour in the 13th minute.

Mirzapour just managed to keep out a shot from right back Miguel in the 45th minute, deflecting the ball out for a corner as it almost squeezed under his body.

Iran's midfielder Javad Nekonam received a first half booking, the second time in the tournament, and will miss his side's last group game against Angola.

The second half followed the same pattern with Deco finally giving Luiz Felipe Scolari's men breathing space as he struck home Figo's perfectly weighted pass.

Ronaldo's penalty drew the fight from the Iranians and Pauleta might have added to the Portuguese tally, while Ronaldo had a second goal ruled out for offside.

It was the first time Portugal had got through the first round since 1966 when, inspired by Eusebio, they reached the semifinals before losing 2-1 to eventual winners and hosts England.

"We respected Iran but we imposed our quality," said Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari. "I thought we played better than they have done in the last seven or eight games," added Scolari, who led his native Brazil to World Cup success in 2002.

"We played a very good game but, unfortunately, it was hard to make something happen against a good Portugal team," said Iran coach Branko Ivankovic.

"It was an evenly balanced match but Deco scored a quality goal and after that it was very hard for us to equalise."

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