No boots, no prob­lem for Iran

The Sun (Malaysia) - - FRONT PAGE -

IRAN coach Car­los Queiroz be­lieves his play­ers have been brought closer to­gether by Nike’s de­ci­sion to cut their sup­ply of World Cup kit to the team but the acid test will come against Morocco to­day.

Nike an­nounced they have been for­bid­den from pro­vid­ing foot­ball boots to Iran’s squad dur­ing the tour­na­ment, on ac­count of sanc­tions im­posed against the coun­try by the United States.

The late de­ci­sion has dis­rupted Iran’s prepa­ra­tions, with some play­ers re­port­edly hav­ing to buy their own footwear from Rus­sian shops or even ask club team­mates for help.

“It has been a source of in­spi­ra­tion for us,” Queiroz told Sky Sports.

“This last com­ment of Nike was, in my per­sonal view, an un­nec­es­sary state­ment. Every­body is aware about the sanc­tions.

“They should come out and apol­o­gise be­cause this ar­ro­gant con­duct against 23 boys is ab­so­lutely ridicu­lous and un­nec­es­sary.”

Iran head into the match against Morocco in Group B on the back of a dif­fi­cult build-up to the tour­na­ment over­all, af­ter friendly matches against Greece and Kosovo were also can­celled.

It re­mains to be seen whether Queiroz’s de­fi­ant ver­dict bears fruit, given any loser of to­day’s crunch fix­ture in Saint Peters­burg would be left need­ing to beat ei­ther Spain or Por­tu­gal to reach the 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. – AFP

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