Carlos Queiroz took charge of Iran in April 2011 with one goal in mind: to return them to the FIFA World Cup™ after they missed out on South Africa 2010. The 61-year-old rose to the challenge in style. Iran finished top of Group A in Asia’s fifth qualifying round, beating section favourites Korea Republic on home turf in the final match to ensure their spot in Brazil.
As a result, Queiroz has become one of the most well-liked personalities in Iran. Joyous fans hailed the Portuguese and his team at a celebration held at the legendary Azadi Stadium in Tehran, and gave them an ecstatic send-off when they left for South America.
Team Melli supporters have high expectations for this World Cup, where Iran face Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Nigeria in Group F. The three-time Asian champions kick off their campaign on Monday against the African side at the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba.
Buoyed by the confidence of their fans, the players are convinced that Queiroz’s guidance will lead them to success. Indeed, since picking up the reins, the former Real Madrid boss has brought through several previously unknown European-based talents.
Goalkeeper Daniel Davari, who signed for the Swiss club Grasshopper just two weeks ago, is one such find. Talking to FIFA.com, he could not speak highly enough of Queiroz: “When Queiroz first called me up, I accepted straight away. It is a huge honour to be brought into the national set-up by such a great coach.
“Queiroz gives off positive vibes. I’ve worked with many different coaches in Germany, and I’ve seen a lot of things, but I’ve really benefitted from Queiroz’s experience.”
Davari is not alone in recognising how important Queiroz is for Iran. Ashkan Dejagah, who scored two decisive goals in the qualifier against Qatar, spoke to us about the squad’s improvement over the last few years.
“The team has really come on since Queiroz came into the fold,” said the Fulham forward. “We are playing football at a much higher level. The coach has a lot of experience and has worked with some top teams. He has tried to pass on his know-how to the players and I think we’ve been working well together up until now. We just need to stay on the right track.”
Queiroz has not only brought European-based players into the fold - he has also shown his faith in several home-grown talents and forged a balanced line-up. The results have been impressive. The Middle Easterners have chalked up 20 wins in 38 games, their best run since 2006, the year of their previous World Cup appearance when Croatian tactician Branko Ivankovic was at the helm.
Also singing the coach’s praises is right-back Khosro Heydari, who believes that Iran’s qualification for Brazil 2014 is largely down to Queiroz, especially in view of the fact that they failed to reach South Africa 2010 with an equally strong side.
“Queiroz is central to our success,” said the fullback. “He coaches the team in such an incredible way. He is a brilliant coach who has pulled off a real feat in taking us to the World Cup. Since he arrived, the standard of our game has just kept on improving.”
Midfielder Bakhtiar Rahmani added: “I’ve captained the side at Foolad for the last three years but whenever I train with Queiroz, I pick up loads of interesting things on the training ground and in matches. He is a coach like no other. There is a huge difference between someone who has coached at Real Madrid and Manchester United and someone who hasn’t. I can say is Queiroz is a fantastic manager.”
One thing is for sure: Queiroz will be all the more loved in Iran if Team Melli put on a good show in the World Cup.