JUNE 14 - JULY 15
last 16. “We have the potential to surprise Morocco in our first match,” Queiroz said.
“We know their team very well but I suspect they know very little about us.” Queiroz’s mood may seem bullish but, despite upheaval off the pitch, his team have been in excellent form on it.
In Brazil four years ago, they were sunk by a late Lionel Messi strike in the group stage against Argentina but there was enough in Iran’s performances to persuade Queiroz to stay on.
The former Real Madrid coach and Manchester United assistant had already overseen them climbing from seventh to top of the Asian rankings and since the last World Cup, they have not lost a competitive game.That run includes 22 matches and even saw Iran as the first team to qualify for Russia.
But, if they are to upset the expected duopoly of Portugal and Spain, Iran will surely need to beat Morocco, who managed not to concede a single goal during their own stellar qualifying campaign.
French coach Herve Renard has instilled a relentless work ethic and defensive discipline in his team but this will be the country’s first outing at a World Cup since 1998 and organisation will take the Atlas Lions only so far.
After Spain sacked their coach Julen Lopetegui on Wednesday, two days before their opening match, both Morocco and Iran will hope the likelihood of a surprise run has been boosted.
“We have a tough d raw,” Renard said. — AFP