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Features

Iran Vs Spain: Before the Match

June 20, 2018
5 min read
Iran Vs Spain: Before the Match

Carlos Queiroz, the head coach of Iran’s national football Team, is not short on achievements — from  two FIFA World Youth Championship wins to discovering and nurturing top Portuguese talents like Luis Figo to propelling South Africa to the 2002 World Cup and that team’s successes at the Africa Cup of Nations games to coaching Manchester United next to the great Alex Ferguson to managing Real Madrid and coaching the Portuguese national team at the World Cup.. 

So could Queiroz's accomplishments give Spain, who face Iran tonight in Kazan, a cause for worry? And what about comments from Isco, one of the Spanish team's star players? He's described the Iranian team as "hardworking" and said that Spain could encounter some trouble if it doesn't score early on in the match. 

When asked to single out one achievement among others, Queiroz has said: “I was Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant.” There can be no doubt that Ferguson, the legend of Manchester United, is Queiroz’s ever-lasting idol. 

And Queiroz has continued to hang on to Ferguson’s words, including phrases like “he who lands a slap first does not always win” or “there is no guarantee that the game will end the same way that it started.”

Queiroz gets a mention in Ferguson’s memoirs. “The first day that he came for our practice he had a plan for every second,” he wrote. “I saw the practices and I knew I had not made a mistake. Then I talked to him a little. And we repeated this every day. He ran the practices and I talked.”

The verbal and the practical cooperation between Ferguson and Queiroz was nothing less than overwhelming: Three English Premier League championships, one UEFA Champions League title, one FIFA Club World Cup, and one Football Association Charity (now Community) Shield. Everything at Manchester’s Old Trafford stadium, nicknamed “The Theatre of Dreams,” was indeed dreamy.

Even now, after so many years, Queiroz cannot let go of Ferguson. Three days before Iran’s game against Morocco on June 15, he told Sky Sports: “My apprentices and I have decided to dedicate today’s terrific practice to Alex Ferguson. We had a wonderful practice.”

No Need For Coaches?

Akbar Mohammadi, the former head coach of Iran's national under-17 and under-20 teams, has an interesting view of the Spanish national team. “When [player] Andrés Iniesta received offers for coaching from three European and Asian leagues, it means that the Spanish national team does not much need the presence of a coach, because each one of them is world-class coaches themselves,” he said.

Many years ago, Ali Daei, the current coach for Iranian team Saipa Tehran and a former Iranian football star who played for Bayern Munich in the late 1990s, said something similar about German Football. “Inside the Bayern Munich locker room and in front of the coach nobody talked,” he recalled. “But when the players talked amongst themselves, they said things that I later heard in coaching classes.”

First, Score a Goal

Of significant interest is what Isco, the star of Real Madrid and of Spain’s national football team, has had to say about the Spanish team in the run-up to its game with Iran. 

“We will run on the pitch to the death, and we will use our own style — i.e., passing the ball and protecting the ball to take control of the field.” Then he revealed Spain’s main strategy against Iran. “We will try to score a goal against Iran in the very first minute,” he said. He explained this to reporters after his team’s last major practice: “Iran is a hardworking team. If their gate is breached in the very first minutes then it will be over. Otherwise we are going to have trouble.”

Isco and his team have seen the record of Iran’s national team, and they do not plan to meet the fate of Morocco, or even that of Chile or South Korea, both of which Iran has beaten over the last few years. But perhaps they also watched Iran’s recent friendly against Turkey. After scoring a goal against Iran very early in the game, Turkey got what it wanted — both victory and a second goal.

“Queiroz Played Us” 

It’s also important to return to what Hervé Renard, the head coach of the Moroccan national team, said after losing to Iran: “All throughout the match, Queiroz was playing with us.” And Queiroz will try to do the same with Spain. It will not be a surprise for the most expensive team at the 2018 World Cup to overpower Iran, win and rise to the top of its group. But if Queiroz successfully carries out his plan of action, then Ferguson’s pupil will have succeeded in creating a masterpiece.

Of course, like Ferguson, Queiroz has made his own philosophical statements, like “For us, football starts at minute zero and ends at minute 90. We must be winners throughout the game.”

To expect that Iran will defeat Spain is both naïve and illogical. But it is uplifting to see that Queiroz has given Spain something to worry about as the teams go into minute 0.

 

More about Iran at the 2018 World Cup:

Big Boost in Jersey Sales as Iran Celebrates Win, June 18, 2018

Iran’s Victory against Morocco: The World Responds, June 17, 2018

Iran’s Last-Minute Miracle Win, June 15, 2018

Iran Fans in Moscow's Red Square, June 14, 2018

Iran vs. Morocco: The First Challenge, June 14, 2018

Decoding Iran’s Politics: Football and State Interference, June 11, 2018

Iranian Football and US Sanctions, June 13, 2018

One Day to go Until the World Cup, June 12, 2018

Get to Know Iran’s 2018 World Cup Team, June 7, 2018

Football Star Azizi Discusses the 2018 World Cup, May 31, 2018

Iran Is Going to the World Cup!, June 13, 2017

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