Iran boss: Off-field tension won’t affect US clash

Iran head coach Carlos Queiroz has said his side will not use off-field controversy as motivation in their crucial World Cup Group B clash against the United States on Tuesday.

The buildup to the US game in Qatar has been marred by tensions between the country’s football bodies, including the United States Soccer Federation’s (USSF) social media account displaying the Iranian flag without its Islamic emblem. That incident led to the Iranian federation calling on FIFA to take action against the USSF.

Comments made by former USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann criticising Iranian football culture also led to an angry response by Queiroz through his Instagram account, adding further tension to a fixture that was already high-profile due to the long-standing political differences between the US and Iran.

When asked whether he would use the flag incident as a source of motivation for his players, Queiroz said he would not deploy that tactic.

“If after 42 years in this game, I still believe I can win football matches by mental games, I think I didn’t learn about the game,” Queiroz, who was applauded by Iranian journalists when he arrived at the news conference, said.

“If my mind falls into the trap of being distracted by all other things, I am lying to football and I won’t do that.

“When the curtain opens, just be ready to sing and dance. If you are not ready, the God of football cannot help you. I just hope my boys put their head, soul and skills together to win and we can reach the result for passport to second round.”

The Iran coach refused to comment on Klinsmann’s comments, but said the game can be a force for good.

“The events surrounding this World Cup will be a good lesson for all of us in the future,” Queiroz said. “We learn that our mission is to create entertainment during 90 minutes and to make the people happy.

“I was born in a place in Africa [Mozambique], and I used to go and work in some places where kids don’t eat for two days, have nothing to eat or drink, no clothes to wear.

“But if you give them a football, you can’t imagine the change in their faces, from sadness to happiness. This is our mission.

“I try to keep loyal to what my father taught me — he said don’t lie to football, don’t kill yourself because of the game. I will be loyal to football and try to respect it, but there are other things that are important for all of our society.

“We have our solidarity with all human and humanitarian causes all over the world, whatever they are and whoever they are.

“You talk about human rights, racism, kids who die in school shootings — we are in solidarity with all of that. To bring happiness for 90 minutes.”

Queiroz, who had two spells as assistant manager to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, is at his third World Cup as Iran manager.

Iran have failed to progress from the group stage in every World Cup they have participated in, dating back to 1978, and Queiroz said his sole objective is to end that long wait for success.

“It is a very special game, to have a chance of making the next stage makes us proud,” Queiroz said. “We have to try to do our best against, without doubt, the most consistent and regular team who made the two best performances in our group — the USA.

“They played very well against Wales and England; everyone else has not been so consistent.

“We know the difficulties we have tomorrow against a very good team, well organised, with the same goal in mind.

“It is a very special game for me because I had the opportunity to work in MLS at the beginning, I helped football in the U.S. to grow up, so being part of this great family of football and United Nations of football is an honour and privilege.

“Now the US has jumped from soccer to football and that is the best praise I can say.

“They are playing really modern football, players in top teams in Europe, but we will play with respect and a strong wish to get the result to get in the second round.”

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