Iran worried by injury list for World Cup

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Iranian coach Branko Ivankovic said his team's self-confidence was buoyed on Monday by a 5-0 win over a local German team.

Updated: February 25, 2007 11:34 IST
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Iranian coach Branko Ivankovic said his team's self-confidence was buoyed on Monday by a 5-0 win over a local German team that came despite the absence of four key players. "This was excellent practice with a very fair opponent,'' Ivankovic said after his team's final World Cup warm up match. Iran created more than a dozen scoring opportunities against VFB Friedrichshafen, a club from the Baden-Wuerttemberg state league. Although goalkeeper Ebrahim Mirzapour, striker Ali Karimi and midfielders Mehdi Mahdavikia and Fereydoun Zandi did not take part because of injuries, Ivankovic said he was confident that all would be ready for Sunday's opening game against Mexico. Karimi, who plays for German champions Bayern Munich, injured knee ligaments in a league match in March. He joined Iran's team for some light practice on Monday ahead of the match. "He did very well. I was especially impressed by his enthusiasm and his fast changes of pace," said Ivankovic. Tough opponent The Iranians see their first match against Mexico next Sunday as crucial to their chances of reaching the knockout phase of the tournament, saying the North Americans would be a tougher opponent than Portugal whom Iran plays on June 17. Its final Group D opponent is Angola on June 21. "Mexico is a very solid and tight-knit team. Unlike Portugal, the Mexicans don't rely on three or four star players," said Zlatko Petricevic, who has coached several Mexican clubs and is advising Ivankovic. About 5,000 fans attended the match at Friedrichshafen's Zeppelin Stadium. Security was heavy with dozens of police vans parked outside the stadium, but no incidents were reported. Iran is counting on its Germany-based players Karimi, Mahdavikia, Kaiserlautern's Zandi and Vahid Hashemian as well as Messina defender Rahman Rezaei to anchor the team. Mahdavikia, a midfielder for Hannover 96, suffered a back injury in practice last week. More worrying, however, is that goalkeeper Ebrahim Mirzapour had to limp off the field during the practice session. (AP)

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