Globetrotting coach Carlos Queiroz says Iran have the passion and quality to win the 2015 AFC Asian Cup in Australia next year. On Wednesday, the three-time continental winners were drawn in Group C with all-Arab opposition from across the Gulf in United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain, but Queiroz believes they can go all the way.
Queiroz, the former assistant to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United who went on to manage Real Madrid and the Portuguese national team, is preparing Iran for their fourth FIFA World Cup™ finals appearance in Brazil where they are grouped with Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Nigeria. He believes they will be better equipped to challenge for January's Asian Cup after the experience of playing at the World Cup, which begins in June.
"We try our best in Brazil," Queiroz said after Wednesday's draw in Sydney. "We have limited resources, we have some issues in our preparation but the federation is making a lot of effort to give the best to the players and the team."
"In the last three years despite all the difficulties Iran showed that the important thing in football is passion and if you have passion for the game that is always a good starting point. With the passion of the players and the fans we were able to qualify the team for the World Cup and I think using that extraordinary feeling of Iran, they have a good chance to come to Australia and go back home with a medal. And who knows, even the first position, I think it is possible."
The 61-year-old, who will finish his two-and-a-half year contract as coach after the World Cup, believes Iran have improved during his time in charge. "The team is playing much better football, more competitive and with the results. No doubt since I arrived there has been great progress in the team and the players," he said.
"When I first arrived I remember if you were not able to put player A or B or C the entire nation was crying because it was all about a couple of names. After three years we play Kuwait with a second team and we can beat them. So that means there is a great and fantastic potential in Iran, just a matter of putting things in the right place and the right programmes."
While his eyes are on his main task at the World Cup, he is confident Iran can topple Asian powerhouses Japan and Korea Republic at the Asian Cup. "Three years ago Iran was fourth or fifth in Asia and today is the number one country," he said.
"I don't think it is a realistic position because Japan and South Korea are still in front of all the other countries in Asia in my opinion, but results are results. The number one Asian ranking should be used to raise the self-esteem of the players in order to create a better motivation to win the Asian competition. Japan and South Korea are very strong but with special work and not copying European or South American systems the Asian teams can close the gap (on the major nations)."