Queiroz turns fo­cus to Iraq de­cider af­ter Iran goes through

Iran Daily - - Sports -

Af­ter help­ing guide the Iran, dubbed Team Melli, through to the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 Round of 16, head coach Car­los Queiroz re­it­er­ated just how im­por­tant his side’s fi­nal group stage game against Iraq will be for his side.

Satur­day’s 2-0 win over Viet­nam, along with Iraq’s later de­feat of Ye­men, saw Iran — which has now won its open­ing two games at the AFC Asian Cup for the third tour­na­ment in a row — as­sure them­selves of a place in the knock­out phase, the-afc. com re­ported.

While Wed­nes­day’s fix­ture will un­doubt­edly rekin­dle mem­o­ries of Iraq’s sen­sa­tional quar­ter­fi­nal vic­tory over the Ira­ni­ans at the AFC Asian Cup’s last edi­tion, it will also de­ter­mine which side would fin­ish top of Group D, a fact not lost on Queiroz.

“In foot­ball, the next game is al­ways the most im­por­tant one, and the match against Iraq is a cru­cial one for us,” de­clared the Por­tuguese tac­ti­cian.

“Ev­ery­thing we do will now re­volve around the match against Iraq, as we need to be fully fo­cused to play against them. Both teams will be fight­ing to fin­ish first in the group, as well as [main­tain­ing] their rep­u­ta­tion.

“We will of course try ev­ery­thing we can to be bet­ter than them.”

Star striker Sar­dar Az­moun scored twice against Viet­nam to take his tour­na­ment tally to three on a day when Iran reg­is­tered a record ninth suc­ces­sive AFC Asian Cup group stage vic­tory.

While ac­knowl­edg­ing Az­moun’s im­pres­sive dis­play, Queiroz was, how­ever, at pains to point out how cru­cial he be­lieves his en­tire squad will be if Iran is to har­bor any am­bi­tions of snar­ing its first AFC Asian Cup ti­tle since 1976.

“I be­lieve that you need to have your en­tire squad ready to make a con­tri­bu­tion at any mo­ment,” he said.

“You can win games with start­ing line­ups, but you win cham­pi­onships with squads. My duty as a coach is to keep the 23 play­ers pos­i­tive and with a con­struc­tive at­ti­tude.”

Mean­while, Viet­nam head coach Park Hang-seo ad­mit­ted that al­though the South­east Asians strug­gled against Iran, he is not giv­ing up on the hope that his side will still make it through to the Round of 16.

“To­day, we saw that Iran were much stronger than us, it was very dif­fi­cult for us to com­pete with them,” he said.

“It is not easy to achieve the high level re­quired [at the AFC Asian Cup] in such a short pe­riod. How­ever, this com­pe­ti­tion is a great ex­pe­ri­ence, my team is get­ting bet­ter and their fu­ture is a bright one.

“I think it will not be easy to qual­ify for the next round by our own ef­forts as we can only get a max­i­mum of three points. But we are go­ing to do our ab­so­lute best and we re­ally hope to get three points in the next match.”

Bet­ter a cham­pion than a top scorer

Fol­low­ing his side’s match against Viet­nam, Az­moun shunned sug­ges­tions that he is on track to be­com­ing the top scorer in the tour­na­ment, in­sist­ing in­stead that he will al­ways put the as­pi­ra­tions of his team first.

The Ru­bin Kazan for­ward in­sisted he has no in­ter­est in per­sonal ac­co­lades as he seeks to help Iran se­cure its first Con­ti­nen­tal ti­tle since 1976.

“I’m pleased with the team’s per­for­mance, not with my own goals,” he said.

“It’s not im­por­tant to me who scores and who does not score, the team’s suc­cess is much more sig­nif­i­cant to me. I cer­tainly do not think about such mat­ters as be­com­ing top scorer.”

“Scor­ing is great, as you get what you have worked for. I am grate­ful that I score, how­ever it’s bet­ter to be the cham­pion of the tour­na­ment rather than be­ing the top scorer.”

Bet­ter against stronger op­po­nents

Com­ment­ing on his side’s match against Iran, Iraq’s coach Srecko Katanec said his team tends to play bet­ter foot­ball against stronger op­po­nents.

“You can’t com­pare the match we had with Viet­nam and against Ye­men. Viet­nam played very fluid foot­ball for the first 45 min­utes and we came out on top. Against Ye­men, were a lit­tle com­pla­cent and maybe that’s why we need to play a strong team, on pa­per, like Iran.

“Maybe I’ll give chances for the other play­ers in the next game. We will see. I can’t say for sure what my tac­tics will be against Iran, maybe three at the back, four or even five.”

Iraq was made to sweat a lit­tle against Ye­men — its se­cond group stage match — in the open­ing min­utes of the game but took con­trol shortly be­fore tak­ing a com­fort­able 2-0 lead at half-time.

Al­though Katanec’s men found it hard to break down their op­po­nents in the se­cond half, the third goal even­tu­ally ar­rived late in the game and the Slove­nian was pleased with his team’s per­for­mance.

Rel­ish­ing Iran meet­ing

Ahead their match against Iran, mid­fielder Bashar Re­san Bonyan pro­claimed Iraq is in a per­fect place.

Now look­ing for­ward to lead­ing Iraq’s at­tack against his Perse­po­lis team­mate in the Iran goal­mouth — Alireza Beiran­vand, Re­san said, “We will put our two past matches be­hind us and fo­cus on the fi­nal match against Iran. The win­ners will top the group and po­ten­tially have an eas­ier path in the knock­out stage.

“Iran are the top-ranked Asian side, and fa­vorites to reach the fi­nal. It will be a dif­fi­cult match. Iran are great, but we are also a qual­ity team with a lot of young tal­ent in our ranks,” said Re­san.

With an av­er­age squad age of 24, Re­san be­lieved Katanec is spoilt for choice ahead of the Iran show­down.

“The coach­ing staff will have watched Iran’s two matches and will put to­gether the best lineup and tac­tics for the match.

“There is a lot of com­pe­ti­tion within the team for start­ing spots, but we play as a unit. At the end of the day, all of us are ca­pa­ble of per­form­ing for the team.

“The coach de­cided who started against Viet­nam and against Ye­men based on his tac­tics for the match, and in the third match against Iran, it will be the same.”

Iran coach Car­los Queiroz GETTY IM­AGES

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