Iran coach Carlos Quieroz took aim at VAR as he prepares for an all-or-nothing World Cup game against his native country Portugal on Monday evening.
The former Manchester United assistant manager was speaking ahead of Iran’s Group B showdown, with the team he managed between 2008 and 2010, in Saransk.
Having beaten Morocco and lost to Spain, Iran know a win against the European champions would see them advance to the knockout stage for the first time, but they are still upset that Saeid Ezatolahi’s late effort in the 1-0 defeat to Spain was disallowed for offside after a VAR review, albeit correctly.
Asked if he was concerned Iran could suffer more VAR-related misery against Portugal, Queiroz started his answer by saying he did not want to talk about it as it might sound like he was “making excuses”.
He explained that if teams had a question about how to deal with concussions or a security issue “we would get a meeting straightaway” but if they ask for “a clarification” on VAR they are told to write to FIFA, which says its will deal with it after the tournament.
“We have a game on Monday.”
“We need to know who is really refereeing the game.”
“The people deserve to know who is refereeing the game when they sit in their stands,” said Queiroz.
He then compared FIFA’s apparent directive to VARs that they only correct “clear and obvious mistakes” to his worrying about his daughter being a “little bit pregnant or not”.
“It’s a question of principle – nobody understands the rules,” he said.
“The game cannot move in this direction.”
On the actual game, Queiroz said his players could not wait to test themselves against Cristiano Ronaldo and the rest of Portugal’s “great players”, and claimed this would be his team’s “most difficult challenge”.
Asked if he had a plan to stop Ronaldo, a player he knows well from United and Portugal, he would only say that Iran would stick to their philosophy of the “three Rs”: respect for their opponents, realism about their own strengths and weaknesses and a romantic view of how good teams beat good individuals.
That is a point that would get no argument from Portugal’s Pepe, for once, as the combative defender told reporters his side would stick to a team-first ethic that has served them well in recent years, even if they have to keep fielding questions about being a one-man side.
“We’re warriors and we’re going to play with solidarity,” said Pepe.
His coach Fernando Santos also played down the significance of Queiroz taking on his own country, describing him as “a friend and a great professional” who would be doing his best for Iran, in the same way that Santos would be doing his best to beat him.
Ehsan Hajsafi’s injury may rule the Iran defender out of contention for Iran’s final group game, having been forced off during Iran’s last game with Spain just after an hour.
Joao Moutinho has been ruled out of training in recent days with an illness, and may not recover in time to start.
This is Iran and Portugal’s second encounter at the World Cup after 2006. Portugal won 2-0 thanks to goals from Deco and Cristiano Ronaldo – it was Ronaldo’s first ever goal in the tournament.
Portugal have won three of their four World Cup games against Asian opposition, losing against host nation South Korea in 2002.
Iran are winless in seven World Cup meetings against European sides (D1 L6), with that draw coming against Scotland in 1978.
Current Iran national coach Carlos Queiroz had two spells managing Portugal during 1991-1993 and 2008-2010.
He took charge during the 2010 World Cup, overseeing their biggest ever victory in the competition (7-0 vs North Korea).
Portugal’s 1-0 win over Morocco last time out was their first World Cup clean sheet since a goalless draw with Brazil in 2010, ending a run of five matches without a shutout.
A win against Portugal will guarantee that Iran are in the World Cup knockout stages for the first time in their history – failing to make it out of the group in each of their four World Cup appearances.
Portugal talisman Cristiano Ronaldo has scored each of his country’s last five goals at the World Cup; the last player to do so for a particular nation was Oleg Salenko for Russia in 1994 (6 in a row).
Against Morocco, Ronaldo scored his 85th international goal for Portugal, the most of any European player at international level in football history.