Serbia and Montenegro v Holland
On paper, the Dutch should get off to winning ways fairly easily in this match, but a closer look at both teams’ qualifying route throws up some different indicators of the possible outcome. In particular, the Serbs had a surprisingly good route to the finals even breaking records along the way. Only conceding one goal throughout the qualification rounds, they also managed a record of 7 consecutive clean sheets from the start of the campaign, the first European team to ever do so.
Holland, too, showed similar form in their qualification process with their last nine games yielding a clean sheet. Unbeaten in twelve competitive matches, the Dutch have a very good record in the group stages of the World Cup tournament. Ruud Van Nistelrooy is undoubtedly one of the world’s best strikers and was unsurprisingly Holland’s leading scorer in qualification.
Prediction – Holland to triumph 1-0 (scorer Ruud Van Nistelrooy) after a hard fought game.
Mexico v Iran
Neither Mexico nor Iran have a particularly strong looking side this tournament and despite Mexico being placed surprisingly high in the FIFA world ranking in 4th place. While they are highly unlikely to prove this position in this World Cup they should manage to beat Iran without too many difficulties. Mexico do look defensively tight with an exceptional goalkeeper in the shape of Sanchez and excellent defenders in front of him. One point of note is that Mexico hold the dubious honor of having lost more games than any other team in World Cup history with 22 losses.
Speaking of dubious honors, though, Iran have only ever won one game in a World Cup final, have never scored in their opening match and have never had a penalty. On a positive note, though, they have also never had a player sent off.
Prediction – Mexico to win 2-1 but Iran to take some heart that they will have finally scored a goal in their opening match.
Angola v Portugal
This should be the fiercest match we’ve seen so far in the World Cup between Angola and Portugal. The last time the two teams met, Portugal went 5-1 up but the match was abandoned because Angola had four players sent off. Angola did surprisingly well in qualification finishing ahead of a strongly fancied Nigerian team.
It may be surprising to learn that this is only Portugal’s fourth World Cup tournament, and that they have failed to negotiate their way out of the group stages during their last two attempts. However, 2006 has heralded a new breed of Portuguese player and they are taken to perform much better this time around, especially with a comparatively easy group to help them.
Prediction – Portugal with a comfortable 2-0 win against the debutantes.