January 6 – Iran have not won the Asian Cup since 1976 and as Team Melli chase a fourth continental title Carlos Queiroz has stressed that Iran are not underestimating Yemen in their opening fixture, calling it “a crucial game”.
The Iranians are tournament favourites alongside South Korea, but their coach Carlos Queiroz, who has been in charge since 2011, has emphasised that Iran are firmly focused on their opening game against debutants Yemen. In the build-up to the tournament Iran spent two weeks in Doha for a training camp.
“We are concentrating on our first match against Yemen,” said Queiroz. “The first game is always the most difficult game in these kind of competitions. It’s a game we need to win. It’s a crucial game.”
The Portuguese and Iran will have been warned about upsets as Australia were defeated by Jordan 1-0 and India outplayed Thailand 4-1 on Sunday in the first surprise results of the tournament. “This is football,” said Queiroz. “You cannot play a football game with a credit card of being favourites. If you don’t play good football, you don’t deserve to win. We came here to play good games and we have to if we want to defeat any team. Yemen are a good side and we have to respect them.”
Queiroz has led Iran at the last two World Cup finals and in Russia Iran excelled, even though they ultimately fell short of making the knockout phase. Iran demonstrated that they are a dynamic and well-drilled outfit that could go toe-to-toe with Spain and Portugal. They enter the tournament with confidence and Queiroz is confident his team will deliver once more against Yemen.
“At the same time, I am confident that my team, despite some injuries, will deliver as I always challenge them to play responsibly so that when they leave the pitch, they leave with the fans happy.”
Iran have often faced difficulties in preparing for major tournaments under the strain of international sanctions, but little compares with the ordeals that Yemen had to endure to progress to their maiden finals as the country has been torn apart by a Saudi-led coalition. Last week Queiroz felt aggravated when asked by a BBC journalist, but he later apologised.
Yemen are the lowest-ranked team in the tournament and 90 minutes against Iran will represent a veritable baptism of fire, but coach Jan Kocian said Yemen won’t be fazed by the magnitude of the occasion.
“The world knows Iran,” said Kocian. “They had a great World Cup and in Carlos Queiroz, one of the best coaches in the world. We are, however, not going to let that get to us. We already have a concept of how we are going to play. We respect Iran, Iraq and Vietnam but we are not going to be afraid.”
“There is no pressure on the team and as a ‘small’ team, we are allowed to dream and that dream is to defeat Iran.”
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1553072148labto1553072148ofdlr1553072148owedi1553072148sni@o1553072148fni1553072148