Deco undergoes MRI for hip injury

Portugal midfielder Deco will have an MRI scan Tuesday on the right hip injury that could keep him out of the team's final group match against Brazil at the World Cup.

Portugal midfielder Deco will have an MRI scan Tuesday on the right hip injury that could keep him out of the team's final group match against Brazil at the World Cup.

He may have lost his place in the lineup, anyhow.

The 32-year-old midfielder played poorly in Portugal's 0-0 opening draw with Ivory Coast. He then aggravated his hip in training, and was only a spectator during Portugal's 7-0 thrashing of North Korea on Monday.

Deco "still has pain in his right hip which is preventing him from training normally," the Portuguese football federation said.

His replacement, Tiago, scored twice and had an assist, winning the praise of coach Carlos Queiroz and teammate Cristiano Ronaldo.

"I'm trying to get better for the next game, so we'll see," Deco said. "I'm still doing treatment and hope to be available."

Healthy or not, the Brazilian-born playmaker's form may mean that he will have to get comfortable on the bench, especially after Tiago's dominant showing against the Koreans.

Deco's nagging injuries and laboured adjustment to the physical play of England's Premier League has prevented him from showcasing his range of passing and excellent control over the last two years.

He played in less than half of Chelsea's matches this season, and looked a shadow of the dominating midfield presence behind Porto's 2004 Champions League title, and Barcelona's two years later.

And it was much the same story when Portugal disappointed against Ivory Cost, with Deco struggling to stay involved in the match and keep possession of the ball against the African team's physical defenders.

He seemed confused playing on the right side of a three-man midfield, away from his normal central role, and was substituted in the second half.

Deco showed his frustration afterward, criticizing Queiroz's tactics and substitutions as "strange" and "not as good as they might have been." He later apologized.

"I have nothing to prove, and just want to play and help my team," Deco said Monday, after the Portugal match. "What's important now is qualifying for next phase."

Portugal is almost assured of advancing after the huge win. Even if it loses to Brazil, Ivory Coast would have to beat North Korea and make up a massive goal difference. Portugal is currently plus-7 in the key tiebreaker, while the Ivorians are minus-2.

Deco was hoping to find out later Tuesday about the results of his MRI, but Portugal may already be covered.

Tiago offered the complete midfielder package on Monday in a display that even persuaded Ronaldo to hand over his man-of-the-match award to the 29-year-old Juventus player. He battled for the ball, chased back defensively and showed expert finishing by hammering in a right-footed shot and a header for second-half goals.

In the one area where Deco is supposed to excel, Tiago seemed to fill in just fine.

With Portugal struggling to impose itself early, Tiago grabbed the ball in the 29th minute and, without any indication, poked a clever pass through the Korean defence. Raul Meireles hit it in stride to give the Portuguese there first goal of the tournament.

It was an assist worthy of Deco's signature.