The Associated Press
OAKLAND, Calif. - In Iran's first soccer game in the United States, Mexico beat the Iranians 2-1 in an exhibition game Sunday that drew an enthusiastic crowd of 34,289 to the Oakland Coliseum.
Support for the Iranians was in abundance as thousands of flags were proudly displayed and the crowd kept up a continuous chant. In one section of the Coliseum, there were four rows each of green, white and red colored shirts that formed horizontal bars in the shape of the Iranian flag. One banner hanging from the second deck read "Viva Iran."
Mexican flags were also waved with pride, and those fans had more to cheer about as Mexico scored in the third minute and never trailed.
Luis Hernandez scored the game's first goal on a header from five yards out, set up by Juan Pablo Rodriguez's free kick from just outside the left edge of the penalty area.
Mexico scored again in the 18th minute when Rodriguez took a free kick from just outside the right edge of the penalty area and Cuauhtemoc Blanco connected on a header.
Ali Daei scored for Iran on a 26th-minute penalty kick after Ramon Ramirez tripped Esmaeil Halai in the penalty area.
Iran plays Ecuador at Los Angeles on Wednesday and the United States at the Rose Bowl next Sunday. Relations between the United States and Iran grew strained during the 1979-81 hostage crisis.
The game follows an exchange of wrestling teams in 1998 and highlights what appears to be a partial thaw in relations.
"This is the latest step in the process of the United States and Iran coming back together," said John Marks, president of Washington-based Search for Common Ground, a private group promoting international understanding.
"The two countries are feeling each other out in a slow way. There are substantial differences that won't be settled on the soccer field or the wrestling mat, but these build confidence and make possible other exchanges."
Sunday's game will be the first meeting between the U.S. team and Iran since the 1998 World Cup, when the Iranians won 2-1 at Lyon, France.