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Date in your diary: Gelsenkirchen, 21 June, Portugal v Mexico
David v Goliath: Cologne, 8 June, Angola v Portugal
History repeats itself: Angola v Portugal
With 12 previous appearances, Mexico are far and away this section's most experienced FIFA World Cup campaigners and will travel to Germany hoping to better their record in the last three tournaments which they exited in the second round. Their performance at the FIFA Confederations Cup last June augurs well, certainly: a Borgetti goal beat Brazil and only a penalty shoot-out defeat by Argentina denied them a place in the final.
A place in the last 16 is also the minimum target for Portugal, who have actually not been beyond the group stage of a FIFA World Cup since reaching the last four in 1966. One of the strongest European sides in qualifying and UEFA EURO 2004 runners-up two summers ago, the Portuguese are aiming to make up for previous disappointments on the world stage and in the Brazilian Luiz Felipe Scolari they have a coach well acquainted with winning FIFA World Cup matches.
The tournament is expected to mark Luis Figo's international football swansong but will also provide a platform for their latest wing wizard, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Portugal will be formidable first opponents for Angola on what will be an emotional occasion in Cologne. Given the countries' close association, the Angolans are unlikely to surprise Portugal but, by the same token, the familiarity could work in their favour as with Senegal and France in 2002. Angola coach Luis Oliveira Goncalves has the trust of his players and their team spirit is strong.
Like Angola, Iran will start out as underdogs but on their third finals appearance, they should benefit from the presence in German club football of several of their key players, including Hamburg playmaker Mehdi Mahdavikia. They beat the United States at France 98 and will probably have to record another famous win if they are to go into their final match against Angola with hope of progressing.
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