Iran president leads praise after Nigeria draw

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Jubilant: Iran players celebrate after securing a draw with Nigeria.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani took to Twitter on Tuesday to praise his country's 0-0 draw with Nigeria, after a lacklustre football World Cup opener for Team Melli in Brazil.

Rouhani tweeted on his English-language account a picture of him in tracksuit bottoms and a sports shirt adorned with the national flag.

It was a rare casual image of the president, who is normally seen in a formal robe and white turban, sitting alone on a sofa watching the match on television with a glass of tea and some pistachios.

Rouhani's optimistic take on the match was at odds with supporters in Curitba, who booed Iran off the pitch after a defensive performance.

However coach Carlos Queiroz said the crowd had to be realistic about what his side could achieve.

"The spectators maybe didn't see it this way, but in football when you play with attitude, soul, emotions, tension it can also be an attractive game and that is what happened," said the former Real Madrid boss.

Iranian media also circulated pictures of Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his nuclear negotiating team watching the match in Vienna, where the Islamic republic is in talks with world powers.

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Scolari wary of Mexico threat

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Taking the threat seriously: Luiz Felipe Scolari.

Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari believes Mexico are good enough to cause his side plenty of problems when the two Group A leaders clash in Fortaleza on Tuesday.

Both teams won their respective opening fixtures and know that if they can maintain their 100 per cent records they will edge closer to securing places in the knockout stages of the competition.

Hosts Brazil kicked off the tournament with a 3-1 victory over Croatia but, having seen off Mexico in a Confederations Cup tie 12 months ago, Scolari expects a tougher examination of his stars heading into the fixture.

"Every time we play against Mexico we have difficulties," he said. "That is why it is a game the players know will be very even, they need to have very good conditioning from the beginning until the end.

"The two teams play football of very good quality, with the ball on the ground, lots of moving around.

"That's why we will insist on all the necessary training, on the necessary respect towards Mexico. But we know a victory will put us in a highly comfortable position for the next round, so we'll play with that in mind."

Scolari also confirmed Zenit forward Hulk may miss the game with a hamstring problem, with Bernard on stand-by to replace him in the starting line-up.

Neymar may have picked up the man of the match award after scoring a brace in the comeback victory over Croatia but Chelsea's Oscar was arguably the best player on the pitch and the 22-year-old echoed his manager's comments about the challenge posed by Miguel Herrera's Mexico.

"It will certainly be as difficult as last year," he said. "In the World Cup there is an extra desire to win and I hope we can do so again this time. "

Mexico are a very different side to Croatia.

They play the ball out from the back well and are very good on the counter-attack."

Experienced captain Rafael Marquez knows that keeping Barcelona's Neymar quiet is a challenge, but one Mexico must achieve if they are to upset the odds and move to the head of the group with one game remaining.

"We have to cover, have two against one, be fast and reduce the spaces on the pitch and not let him (Neymar) play," he told Brazilian news station Globo. "It was a good win (against Cameroon) and it was very important.

"Against Brazil, it will surely be a very difficult game. We know the talent of Neymar, Oscar, Hulk but we will train in ways to handle them.

"We have to make the most of this opportunity – it is a showcase for all of us. For many of them it is an opportunity to go up one more level."

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Appiah denies Ghana bonuses row

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Devastated: Ghana players after suffering a shock 2-1 defeat to the USA.

Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah denied his players' performance in a 2-1 defeat to Group G rivals the United States was caused by player unrest but admitted the Black Stars are still awaiting full payment of bonuses.

Ghana were stunned after just 30 seconds when Clint Dempsey finished off a great move down the left by weaving through the Africans' defence to beat Adam Kwarasey at the keeper's far post.

Andre Ayew struck an 82nd minute equaliser for the Black Stars but only four minutes later second-half substitute John Brooks headed a late corner through the defence and past Kwarasey to send the huge USA support at Estadio das Dunas wild.

Ghana, quarter-finalists in 2010, now face a huge task to qualify from a group which includes Germany and Portugal.

Earlier, Germany thumped Portugal 4-0.

Appiah, the first Ghanaian to coach the side at the World Cup, admitted Ghana's players had not received all of their bonuses.

But he played down suggestions – spread by social media – there was unrest in the camp.

"I'm surprised to hear this," he said. "I mean, fine. Some of the monies haven't been paid yet, but that has got nothing to do" with their performance.

"If you look at the performance today, it's got nothing to do with money. We created a lot of chances but we didn't take them. But the USA took their chances."

Indiscipline and unrest over unpaid bonus money to players is not uncommon to African teams playing at the world's biggest football tournament.

Cameroon came close to a World Cup boycott a week before boarding the plane to Brazil, after threatening not to travel if certain player demands were not met.

A deal was struck, but the side coached by German Volker Finke fell to 1-0 to Group A rivals last week in Natal.

Ghana next face Germany in Fortaleza on June 21, and USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann – who led the Mannschaft to third place as coach in 2006 – warned: "I think Germany is the favourite in this Group. Ghana will face Germany next and they have to get a result.

"We watched the Germany game today and I can only give them huge compliment. Impressive, no doubt about it."

Ghana came to Brazil hoping to improve on their performance in 2010 when they narrowly failed to make the semi-finals when striker Asamoah Gyan missed a penalty against Uruguay after Luis Suarez stopped the ball with his hand on the line.

Uruguay went on to win the penalty shoot-out, and later claimed a fourth place finish.

Appiah looked downcast after Monday's game, but said it's not over yet: "Looking at the performance, we did not do badly. I don't think we disgraced ourselves.

"We still have two games to play, so we're not out of it yet."

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