News ID: 324235
Published: 1009 GMT September 20, 2022

Will Queiroz have the instant impact to steer Iran to the promised land?

Will Queiroz have the instant impact to steer Iran to the promised land?
FFIRI

By Amirhadi Arsalanpour

In the eyes of the majority of the Iranian fans and pundits, Carlos Queiroz is a messiah figure; someone with the magic touch to lead the national team all the way to a historic success at the World Cup in Qatar: A place in the round of 16.

In fact, it could have already been a mission accomplished for the Portuguese four years ago, had it not been for Mehdi Taremi missing a stoppage-time sitter against Portugal on the final day of the group phase, which saw Iran come short of a single point for a place in the knockout round.

That must have been the logic behind the drastic decision to bring Queiroz back after three years to replace Croatian Dragan Skocic with just over two months until the showdown in Qatar.

Skocic took over at the most challenging circumstances in February 2020 – following back-to-back defeats against Bahrain and Iraq under Belgian Marc Wilmots in the preliminary round of the qualifiers – and still managed to pull off the most comfortable progress to the main event, winning 15 out of 18 matches in doing so.

For all the records and numbers in his favor, there was a constant debate – even among certain players in the team – on whether the Croatian is the right man for the task in Qatar.

His doubters – referring to Skocic’s rather unimpressive CV, which included spells at Iranian minnow clubs – believed that he did not have the tactical acumen for an event of World Cup caliber, not to mention he was always criticized for his lack of control over the dressing room.

Queiroz, meanwhile, has proved to be on top of his job when it comes to those two factors.

The former No. 2 to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United did a fantastic job getting his players on board in the previous two World Cups, generating the utmost motivation within the squad.

Even Mehdi Taj, the new chairman of the Iranian Football Federation, underlined his prowess to “bring the discipline back to the team” when elaborating on the reasons to go for the former Real Madrid head coach.

He also masterminded a solid defensive gameplan, as Iran conceded only twice in three matches against European heavyweights Spain and Portugal, as well as African giant Morocco four years ago, and with the games against geopolitical foes England and USA approaching, that must have been taken into consideration when the Iranian football governing body rehired the Portuguese tactician.

Having said all that, the question on the timing of Queiroz’s appointment still remains: Will he be capable of turning the fortunes around in such a short period?

After all, when Queiroz took Iran to the 2018 World Cup he had a seven-year experience of working in the country on his back, enjoying the luxury of time to devise the route to success in Russia.

Queiroz is with his team in a training camp in Austria ahead of two friendlies against Uruguay and Senegal during the upcoming international break and the next time he gets to have all his players – overseas ones particularly – at his disposal will be seven days before the World Cup opening ceremony on November 20.

Perhaps that is why the manager refused to make all-around changes to the squad that more or less played under his predecessor during the qualification campaign, though the Portuguese might argue that the best part of the group first received an international call-up when he was in charge.

The players are four years older now and some might not be in their best form heading into the World Cup.

Striker Sardar Azmoun, for instance, has been struggling to find his way into the starting XI since joining Bundesliga club Leverkusen midway through last season, while team captains Ehsan Hajsafi and Karim Ansarifard, both at 32, are well beyond the peak of their careers.

Saeed Ezzatollahi, meanwhile, who will presumably be Queiroz’s first choice for the No. 6 role, has made only a couple of late substitute appearances for Vejle BK in the Danish top flight this season.

Queiroz also needs to be mindful of the fact that his players played with an utterly different tactical approach under Skocic.

To find if the radical change on Iran’s bench will eventually pay off, we’ll have to wait until Queiroz’s men kick off their campaign against Harry Kane and co. at Al Rayyan’s Khalifa International Stadium on November 21.

For now, we could only wish for the best to come.

 

   
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