JUNE 14 - JULY 15

The Borneo Post - - SPORT -

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

Jerome Boateng

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