Iran coach Carlos Queiroz on World Cup, USMNT, England

Carlos Queiroz had a good idea what he was signing up for in September when he agreed to return to his first job as coach of the Iran national team, three years after a stint his first eight years in charge, with a $50,000 contract for. a three-month career culminates in the World Cup. Or at least he thought he did.

Inserted in a politically relevant group in Qatar alongside the United States, England and Wales – Iran’s relations with the United States and the United Kingdom have rarely been hostile since the Islamic Revolution in 1979 – Queiroz would need to coach both football. to ensure Iran’s World Cup campaign goes as smoothly as possible.

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But within days of her return to Iran, protests against the death of Mahsa Amini, who died in police custody after being arrested for failing to wear a headscarf properly, they began to spread and cover the land.

Almost two months later, the situation remains stable. Women continue to protest against the regime by cutting their hair and refusing to wear headscarves, and Iranian soccer players, past and present, are joining the protests on social media. which support the demands of greater rights of women and society.

Outside of Iran, calls for Team Melli — Iran’s nickname for their national team — to be kicked out of the World Cup have been announced by Ukraine over allegations that the country is supplying military equipment to Russia in return. of supporting its attack. Ukraine.

As the coach of the national team, Queiroz is the leader of Iranian football, but the former Real Madrid coach and former assistant to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United has chosen to avoid the issue that is currently affecting Iran. Asked at a training camp in Tehran last week about the ongoing protests and unrest in the country – and suggestions that many Iranians do not want their team to be the face of an Islamist regime – Queiroz chose to refrain from giving his opinion. feelings about the situation.

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When ESPN spoke to Queiroz in late September during a training break in Vienna, Austria, ahead of friendlies against Uruguay and Senegal, he said, “Many Iranians have a clear answer to this campaign. They want for their football team to participate. World Cup 2022.”

Amini’s protests had already begun, and concern within the Iranian camp led to ESPN and other Western media being banned from attending the Uruguay match in St. Polten before the U-turn on game day. Iran’s concerns about protests at the match proved well-founded, as supporters were chased away by Austrian police for displaying banners bearing Amini’s name.

Queiroz was asked his opinion on the situation in Iran, but he replied, “I have no opinion.”

His position was clear. He would talk about football, and Iran’s prospects in Qatar, but everything else was absent. The 69-year-old defied the authority of the Iran Football Association by agreeing to speak to ESPN, but even then, it was supposed to be only football questions.

Iran’s situation has been worsening rather than declining since mid-September, but with the World Cup due to start in just a week and Iran having to face England in their opening game at the Khalifa Stadium on the 21st Nov. United States at the Al Thumama Stadium in the final match of Group B on December 29, Queiroz’s thoughts on the group below.


ESPN: Iran has been written off as an underdog in the group, despite being 20th in the FIFA world rankings, below Wales (19) and the US (16), does that give you more motivation?

Queiroz: Never. I never think like that because I don’t care what other people think about us. We think about ourselves. We have our strengths and qualities, and of course we have some weaknesses as all teams do. No one is perfect and at the right time, it is time to speak in the arena.

That opinion or that opinion, doesn’t count. But at the end of the day, in the game, what will matter is to make a good game, play good football and leave the result in God’s hands. That’s what we can do.

ESPN: Iran have not qualified for the World Cup, so what are the prospects for Qatar?

Queiroz: To me, it is not wrong to feel that we feel such pressure to raise our responsibilities, our goals and our jobs. But within the group, our expectations for doing well are on the same level as everyone else’s.

We want to progress, to be better, and we certainly have our expectations to reach the second stage of the World Cup. Nothing has changed. We are going for our third World Cup together with the same belief and the same desire to be there.

ESPN: The opening game is against England, one of the World Cup champions. How strong are they?

Queiroz: I am happy to play in England, as we are happy for Iranian football to play in Portugal or Spain. We are happy to play the best teams in the world because this is our life. We strive to be among the best teams in the world, among the best players.

So being there for us, it’s a moment of joy. We work all our lives to be the World Cup. And when we get to the World Cup, we go there as small players, but we are among the 32 best national teams in the world at the moment, so let’s enjoy it.

ESPN: After working in England with Manchester United, you know the country and the team’s desire to do well, but you’ve seen them fail many times before.

Queiroz: England is the leading team. There is no doubt that in the last few years, in international football, England is growing with good preparation and a clear vision. It is clear about the results on the field of play.

But I’m not saying this team is better, or the players are better, since the days of David Beckham and Paul Scholes. They are not in that position anymore, but the difference now is that England are showing a clear direction and vision of where the players and the whole team need to go. So this creates a more stable and competitive team.

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But this World Cup is something different because we are going to face a completely new construction – a short break between matches, a tournament played in November, which is completely different compared to Other World Cups, so we have players. Europe will arrive in Qatar with 15-20 games in their legs.

In other World Cups, they have 65-70 games in their legs, so let’s see what happens.

ESPN: The game against the US is the last game of the group and could decide the qualification hopes of both teams. He coached in MLS with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars in the 1990s. How do you see the US team and the progress made by the nation in soccer?

Queiroz: I see progress, football is progressing everywhere. Most people don’t see it, but experts, we do. The game is moving forward in the US – fast, fast thinking, quick decisions from the players, so we have to take care of that.

This happens with all countries, including the US But every year, they are leaving and comparing well with other continents. Now they have relationships with players of big countries and competitions. USA soccer players are growing rapidly and are competing with other countries and continents in the world.

ESPN: Can Iran surprise people at this World Cup?

Queiroz: What we expect from the World Cup are big games, big games, great games. Iran, England, Wales, Spain, Portugal, USA — everyone should work with the same goal to create happiness, joy and pride for our supporters.

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