Carlos Queiroz has become a treasure in Iran, and after making history with the international team he wants a reoccurrence next year to ensure Team Melli don’t go to Russia as tourists.
On June 12, Iran qualified for the World Cup — the first time they’ll be in back-to-back competitions — and now, under former Real Madrid manager Queiroz, their sights are set on a debut appearance in the knockout stages.
Iran became the second team after Brazil to qualify for the 2018 World Cup after beating Uzbekistan 2-0 in Tehran. Russia, who are the host of the competition, automatically take place through FIFA ruling.
With thanks to Queiroz, who is regarded as one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s greatest ever assistants at Manchester United, Iran is Asia’s highest-ranked team according to FIFA. Having watched his team, few would argue they’re the best on the pitch, but they’ve become a force to be reckoned with under a great coach, a continental powerhouse withholding sheer consistency.
Iran have qualified for four World Cups but never survived the group stages, so that will become the benchmark for Queiroz when he takes the Persian side to Russia next summer. Iran performed well in 2014, drawing with Nigeria and losing just 1-0 against finalists Argentina, but this is now a more confident and consistent side.
Against Argentina, however, Iran defended heroically but conceded an injury-time goal as Lionel Messi put Alejandro Sabella’s men through to the last 16. It was described by many spectators as a harsh defeat, one which saw Iran gained valuable experience, as they defended like trench-bound soldiers.
In Queiroz Iran have a defensive master mastermind, who is happiest seeing opposition teams grind through the gears, snagged on his high-grade defensive spike strips. For instance, Iran have conceded only three goals in 16 qualifying matches while scoring 34. That is a record any manager would be happy to take into a World Cup.
But Queiroz has a tendency of getting the best of out his players when it comes to preparing for World Cups, successfully qualifying for four out of five campaigns with three different countries (South Africa 2002, Portugal 2010 and 2014/18-Iran), only failing with Portugal in 1994.
Iran supporters are adamant about not wanting the Queiroz reign to end but with his current contract running out after the 2018 World Cup, there has only been speculation about an extension until 2022, yet nothing has materialised into an official offer.
“The Iranian people love Carlos Queiroz,” said Amir Pasha, host of Gol Bezan, the only English spoken podcast that concentrates on Iranian football. “He had issues with the Iran Football Federation but remained manager because of his bond with the fans. Iran is a football-mad country full of passion and hunger which makes Queiroz want to be the best he can be.
“Queiroz is our football icon; someone I could see us building a statue for outside the Azadi Stadium.”
It goes without saying that Queiroz is the best manager Iran has seen. It is admirable how he reaches out to the fans ever so passionately and has the media onside during tough times with the IFF, akin to a successful politician.
Moreover, Queiroz is adulated as a saviour. Ever since the 1979 Revolution swiftly halted Iran’s decade-long dominance of Asia, the football scene has been chomping at the bit for a return to former glories.
The Portuguese manager thrives on the development of a project. Just look at how he helped mentor Cristiano Ronaldo in his first season at United when he was a raw talent and far from the finished article. Now, working in a football-mad country, Queiroz wants to give the people memories to reminisce over.
From fist-pumps to the emotions with which he gives his press conference and interviews, Iran supporters know Queiroz is not there to collect a hefty cheque. He deserves to take Team Melli to the World Cup knockout stages.