Carlos Queiroz had a pretty good idea of what he was signing up for in September, when he agreed to return to his previous role as coach of the Iran national team, ending his initial eight-year stint. Three years after terminating, on a $50,000 contract. The culmination of three months’ work at the World Cup. Or at least he thought he did.
The United States, along with England and Wales joined a politically sensitive group in Qatar – Iranian relations with the US and the United Kingdom have rarely been hostile since the Islamic Revolution in 1979 – making Queiroz both football coach and will need to be. Diplomats to ensure Iran’s World Cup campaign goes as smoothly as possible.
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But within days of his return to Iran, in protest against the death of Mahsa Amini, who Died in police custody after being arrested for not wearing head scarf properlybegan to grow and surround the country.
Even after almost two months, the situation remains the same. Iranian football players, past and present, have joined protests with posts supporting demands for more rights for women and society, with women cutting their hair and refusing to wear headscarves. continue to oppose.
Outside Iran, Team Meli – Iran’s nickname for their national team – has been voiced by Ukraine for being excluded from the World Cup because of claims that the country is supplying military hardware to support an invasion of Russia. . Ukraine.
As coach of the national team, Queiroz is a key figure in Iranian football, but former Real Madrid coach and longtime assistant to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United has chosen to avoid the topic that is now consuming Iran. . When asked about the ongoing protests and unrest in the country during a training camp in Tehran last week – and the suggestion that many within Iran do not want his team to be the face of the Islamic regime – Queiroz refrained from offering his support. Opinion on the situation decided.
When ESPN spoke to Queiroz during a training break in Vienna, Austria, ahead of the friendly against Uruguay and Senegal in late September, he said, “Most Iranians have a clear answer to this campaign. They want that. Let their national football team participate in the 2022 World Cup.”
Amini’s protests had already begun, and concerns within the Iranian camp led to ESPN and other Western media outlets being banned from attending the Uruguayan game in St. Iranian concerns of protest at the game were well-founded, with supporters being fired by Austrian police for displaying banners bearing Amini’s name.
Queiroz was asked for his comments about the situation in Iran, but replied, “I have no idea.”
His position was clear. He used to talk about Iran’s prospects in football and Qatar, but everything else was out of bounds. The 69-year-old had defied the hierarchy of the Iranian Football Federation by agreeing to speak to ESPN, but even then, it was only football questions.
The situation in Iran has escalated rather than eased since mid-September, but with the World Cup starting more than a week later and before their meeting against Iran, they face England in their opening game at Khalifa Stadium on 21 November. Due to Iran United in the final Group B game on 29 November at Al Thumama Stadium, Queiroz’s thoughts on the group are below.
ESPN: Despite being ranked 20th in the FIFA world rankings, Iran is written as a no-hopper in the group, just below Wales (19) and the US (16), so does that give you extra motivation?
Queiroz: never. I never think like that because I don’t care what others think of us. We think about ourselves. We have our strengths and strengths, and of course, like all teams, we have some weaknesses as well. No one is perfect and it’s time to speak inside the pitch at the right time.
Those feelings or those comments don’t count. But at the end of the day what will be important in the match is to perform well, play good football and leave the result in the hands of God. That’s what we can do.
Mark Ogden analyzes the USMNT’s draw for the World Cup, where they will face England, IR Iran and a European qualifier.
ESPN: Iran has never been out of the group stage in a World Cup, so what are the expectations from Qatar?
Queiroz: To me, it doesn’t hurt to feel that pressure to increase our responsibilities, our motivation, and our duties. But within the group, our expectations of doing well are on the same level as everyone else’s.
We want to move forward, get better, and of course we have our hopes of reaching the second stage of the World Cup. Nothing has changed. We are going to our third World Cup with the same faith and the same ambition.
ESPN: The first game is against England, one of the favorites of the World Cup. How strong are they?
Queiroz: I am happy to play from England, because we are happy in Iranian football to play in Portugal or Spain. We are happy to play with the best teams in the world because that is our life. We work to be one of the best players in the best teams in the world.
So it is a happy moment for us to be there. We work our whole life to stay in the World Cup. And when we get to the World Cup, we go there as little players, but we are among the best 32 national teams in the world at the moment, so let’s enjoy it.
ESPN: Having worked with Manchester United in England, you know the frustration of the country and the team doing well, but you’ve seen them fail many times before.
Queiroz: England is the top team. There is no doubt that in the last few years, England has been moving ahead in international football with better preparation and a clearer vision. It is clear from the results on the pitch.
But I am not saying that this team is better than the days of David Beckham and Paul Scholes, or that they are better players. They are not at that point, but the difference now is that England are showing a clear direction and vision of where all the players and the entire team should go. So it creates a team that is more consistent and able to compete.
But this World Cup is a bit different because we are going to face a completely new construction – short breaks between games, a competition played in November, which is completely different than other World Cups, So we have players in Europe who will reach Qatar with 15-20 games on their feet.
They have 65-70 games on their feet in other World Cups, so let’s see what happens.
ESPN: The game against America is the final group fixture and could decide both teams’ qualification hopes. You coached MLS with the New York/New Jersey Metrostars in the 1990s. How do you see the progress made by the US team and the nation in football?
Queiroz: I see progress, football progress everywhere. Most people don’t see it, but professionals, we know. The game is moving in America – it’s faster, more quick-thinking, quicker decisions from players, so we need to be aware of that.
This happens with all countries including America but year after year, they are comparing well with other continents. Now they are related to players and competitions of big countries. The football players of the United States of America are growing rapidly and are comparable with other countries of the world and on other continents.
ESPN: Can Iran surprise people in this World Cup?
Queiroz: What we expect in the World Cup is a great game, a great match, a great performance. Iran, England, Wales, Spain, Portugal, the United States – all must engage with only one goal to create joy, happiness and pride for their supporters.