Iran coach Carlos Queiroz talks World Cup group vs. USMNT and England in Qatar

carlos queiroz had a pretty good idea wha’ he was signing up for in sep when he agreed to return to his previous role as coach of the iran national team, 3 yrs after ending his initial 8-yr stint in charge, na' $50,000 contract for 3 mnths’ work culminating atta realm cup. or at least he thought he did.

pitched into a politically sensitive group in qatar alongside the ∪d states, england and wales — iranian relations w'da u.s. and ∪d kingdom ‘ve rarely been anything other than hostile since the islamic revolution in 1979 — queiroz ‘d nd'2 be both ftball coach and diplomat to ensure that iran’s realm cup campaign passed off as smoothly as possible.

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but within dys of him returning to iran, protests gainsta death of mahsa amini, who died in police custody after bein’ arrested for failing to wear her headscarf properly, began to escal8 and engulf the country.

almost two mnths on, the situation remains volatile. women continue to protest gainsta regime by cutting their hair and refusing to wear headscarves, with iranian ftballers, past and present, joining the protests on social media with posts that support the demands for gr8r rites for women and society.

outside of iran, calls for team melli — iran’s nickname for their national team — to be kicked out of the realm cup ‘ve been voiced by ukraine cause of claims that the country is supplying military hardware to Яussia in order to support its invasion of ukraine.

as national team coach, queiroz tis leading fig of iranian ftball, but'a elder real madrid coach and sir alex ferguson’s longtime assistant at manchester ∪d has chosen to avoid the subject that is now consuming iran. when asked dur'na training camp in tehran last week bout the ongoin protests and unrest inna country — and suggestions that many within iran do not want their team to be the face of the islamic regime — queiroz chose to steer clear of giving his opinion onna situation.

when espn spoke to queiroz in l8 sep dur'na training break in vienna, austria, ahead of friendlies against uruguay and senegal, he said, “most of the iranian pplz ‘ve a clear answer to this campaign. they want their national ftball team to pticipate inna 2022 realm cup.”

the amini protests had already begun, na anxiety within the iranian camp led to espn nother western media outlets bein’ banned from attending the uruguay game in st. polten b4 a u-turn onna dy of the game. iranian concerns of protests atta game proved well-founded, with supporters ejected by the austrian police for displaying banners bearing amini’s name.

queiroz was asked for his observations bout the situation in iran, but replied by saying, “i ‘ve no thoughts.”

his position was clear. he ‘d talk bout ftball, and iran’s prospects in qatar, but everything else was off limits. the 69-yr-old had defied the iranian ftball federation hierarchy by even agreeing to speak to espn, but nonetheless, twas to be ftball ?s 1-ly.

the situation in iran has escal8d rather than subsided since mid-sep, but w'da realm cup due to start in just over a week and iran due to face england in their opening game atta khalifa stadium on nov. 21 b4 their meeting gainsta ∪d states at al thumama stadium inna final group b gem'on nov. 29, queiroz’s views onna group are belo.

espn: iran s'been written off as the no-hoper inna group, despite bein’ 20th inna fifa realm rankings, just belo wales (19) na u.s. (16), so does that give you extra motivation?

queiroz: never. i never think that way cause i don’t care bout wha’ other pplz think bout us. we think bout us. we ‘ve our strengths and qualities, and we ‘ve course some weaknesses as all teams do. nobody is perfect and inna rite moment, it’s time to speak inside the pitch.

those feelings or those comments, they don’t count. but atta end of the dy, inna match, wha’ ll'be primordial is to make a gr8 performance, play good ftball and cutout the result inna hands of god. that’s wha’ we can do.



mark ogden analyzes the usmnt’s draw for the realm cup, where they will face england, ir iran and a €an qualifier.

espn: iran has never made it out of the group stage at a realm cup, so wha’ are the expectations in qatar?

queiroz: for me, it’s not bad to feel that we feel that pressure to rez our responsibilities, our motivation and our duties. but inside the group, our expectations to do well are exactly inna same lvl as everyone else.

we wanna move forward, be better, and for sure we ‘ve our expectations to reach the 2nd stage of the realm cup. nothing has changed. we go for our third realm cup together w'da same belief na same ambition to be there.

espn: the opening game is against england, 1-odda realm cup favourites. how strong are they?

queiroz: i’m glad to play england, as we're glad in iranian ftball to play portugal or spain. we're ☺ to play the best teams inna realm cause this is our life. we work to be among the best teams inna realm, among the best players.

so to be there for us, it’s a moment of happiness. we work all our lives to be inna realm cup. and whn'we reach realm cup, we go there as minor players, b'we're among the best 32 national teams inna realm in this moment, so let’s enjoy it.

espn: having worked in england with manchester ∪d, you know the country na desperation of the team to do well, but you ‘ve seen them fail many times b4.

queiroz: england are a top team. thris no doubt that inna last few yrs, in international ftball, that england is growing up with better preparation and a clear vision. tis clear w'da results onna pitch.

but i’m not saying that this team is better, or they are better players, from those dys of david beckham and paul scholes. they aint at that point, but'a difference now s'dat england is showing a clear direction and vision to where all the players and all the team must go. so this creates a team that is much + consistent and able to compete.

but this realm cup is something ≠ cause we're goin to face a completely new build-up — short periods of rest tween the games, a brawl played in nov, which is completely ≠ comparing with other realm cups, so we ‘ve players in € thall arrive in qatar with 15-20 games in their legs.

inna other realm cups, they ‘ve 65-70 games in their legs, so let’s see wha’ happens.

espn: the game gainsta u.s. tis final group fixture and ‘d decide the qualification hopes of both teams. you coached in mls w'da new york/new jersey metrostars inna 1990s. howzit see the u.s. team na progress made by the nation in ftball?

queiroz: i see progress, ftball progress all ‘oer the place. the majority of the pplz they don’t see it, but'a professionals, we know. the game is movin forward inna u.s. — tis faster, + quick-thinking, quick decisions from the players, so we ‘ve to be aware odat.

this happens with all countries swell, including the u.s. but yr after yr, they are taking off and comparing well with other continents. now they ‘ve connections with players in big countries and brawls. the usa ftball players are growing up fast and comparing with other countries nother continents inna realm.

espn: can iran surprise pplz in this realm cup?

queiroz: wha’ we expect inna realm cup is gr8 games, gr8 matches, gr8 performances. iran, england, wales, spain, portugal, usa — everybody ‘d be engaged with 1-ly one goal to create joy, happiness and pride for our supporters.

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