The outcome of Iran’s World Cup opener against England on Monday was obviously not what Carlos Queiroz and his men had planned for.
Having played to nip and tuck affairs with Argentina, Spain, and Portugal under the Portuguese manager in the previous two World Cups, Iranian players stepped onto the pitch at the Khalifa International Stadium on high hopes of pulling off another heroic performance against an international heavyweight of football.
But the 6-2 debacle – a worst defeat for Iran in the history of the competition – means Queiroz’s men will now have to prepare for the second Group B game against Wales on Friday, knowing any result other than a victory will all but finish their quest for a place in the knockout phase.
What hurt even more than the crushing defeat was the discord among the Iranian fans on the stands, which had been sparked by the protests in Iran in recent months and fueled by the foreign media in the buildup to the game.
For all the poor decisions made by Queiroz regarding the starting XI and formation, one may feel for the Portuguese, who was to some extent right to put the blame on sections of the Iranian crowd for “disturbing the team with issues that are not about football.”
The scenes were in stark contrast with those at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium later in the day, where passionate Wales’s supporters went into a frenzy when Gareth Bale bagged a late equalizer from the spot.
That’s why a full-fledged support and positive vibe for the national team will play a decisive role in Friday’s game.
If Queiroz wants his team win back the hearts of the Iranian people he may have to make significant changes to his lineup and gameplan, opting for a more adventurous type of football.
Iran’s last game in the group is against USA is on November 29 – the anniversary of the memorable aggregate victory over Australia which secured a place at the 1998 World Cup for the country.
The last thing Iranian players would want to see is to head into the contest against the Americans with nothing to fight for.