News ID: 237895
Published: 0331 GMT January 25, 2019

Asia’s big guns coming for Iran, Queiroz says

Asia’s big guns coming for Iran, Queiroz says
Iran head coach Carlos Queiroz reacts on the touchline during his side’s 3-0 victory over China at the AFC Asian Cup quarterfinals in Abu Dhabi, the UAE, on January 24, 2019.

Iran head coach Carlos Queiroz has been quick to dismiss the notion that his side is the favorite to win the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 after Thursday’s impressive 3-0 win over China saw Iran book its place in the semifinals.

Iran shone brightly throughout the victory, with goals from Mehdi Taremi, Sardar Azmoun and substitute Karim Ansarifard ultimately making the difference as Queiroz’s charges reached the last four of Asia’s premier event for the first time since 2004, reported.

Despite their impressive form – has have now racked up four wins and five successive clean sheets – Queiroz remains adamant that the three-time champion of Asia is still not one of the tournament’s leading contenders ahead of next Monday’s semifinal showdown with Japan in Al Ain.

“The win against China is a very important one for both me and my players,” declared the former Manchester United assistant coach.

“Our dream has always been to be in the middle of the top teams in the final four, something which we have now done and are very happy about.

“However, there are only three favorites to win this competition and they are Japan, Korea Republic and Australia. For us to be labeled favorites is not correct, it is an ill-fitting tag."

“In front of us we have just another game. Of course, the game has added significance in terms of enthusiasm and excitement, but when the whistle goes you simply have to play.

“This is especially true as now we know the big sharks will come for us – the favorites of Asian football – Japan and Korea Republic are coming for us, so we need to do more,” the Portuguese added, although South Koreans were stunned by one of the formidable sides of the tournament Qatar in the quarterfinals – suffering a 1-0 defeat on Friday.

With Japan waiting in the wings, Queiroz believes Iran must improve even further if it is to overcome one of the best sides in Asia.

“We must always progress with the same humble attitude and strive to be better every game,” he said.

“I always say to my team that after a match the Iranian shirt must always be in a higher place. What we did against China will not work [in the match against Japan], so we need to ensure that we improve game after game.”


‘Fantastic job’


Queiroz, meanwhile, described Marcello Lippi as one of the greats of world football after ending the Italian's reign.

Lippi stepped down as planned after his China side was crushed by Iran, a humiliating way to bow out for the 70-year-old, who could barely conceal his anger after the game.

"It was a privilege to coach side-by-side with Mr. Lippi," said Queiroz. "The work that he did with China was fantastic. He is probably one of the best coaches in football history."

Lippi steered his native Italy to World Cup glory in 2006 but won just 12 of 31 games since taking charge of China's national team in October 2016.

Despite a truly abject performance against Iran – and the embarrassing gulf in class – Queiroz compared Lippi to former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, in terms of the Italian's impact on football.

"These great coaches can only bring improvement – giant coaches like (Fabio) Capello, Lippi, Alex Ferguson, built the game in the last 20 years."

Lippi refused to take questions after China's capitulation against Iran, but was visibly upset at the manner of his team's defeat.

"You can't gift a team as dangerous as Iran three goals," he growled, giving no indication of his future plans.

"You just can't legislate for that kind of thing. I really wish it didn't have to end on such a gloomy note."

Lippi's departure leaves 76th-ranked China hunting for a new coach, but football's sleeping giant – which has qualified for the World Cup just once, in 2002 – appears to favor foreign know-how.

Veteran Dutch coach Guus Hiddink, who famously led South Korea to the World Cup semifinals in 2002, took charge of China's under-21 side last year as they target success at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.



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