On the eve of Iran’s World Cup opener against Nigeria, coach Carlos Queiroz tried to ease the pressure on his players by insisting that the international sanctions on the Middle Eastern country have made his team the clear underdog in Group F, which also contains favorite Argentina and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
“The economic and political situations have put a team from Iran at the complete disadvantage in relation to other teams that are here,” Quieroz, the former Real Madrid, Portugal and MetroStars coach, said during his pre-game press conference.
The international sanctions he speaks of have come in response to Iran’s nuclear program, impacting its economy, as well as funding for the Iranian national team. The Associated Press likened Quieroz’s comments to the mind-games often deployed by his compatriot Jose Mourinho, coach of Chelsea in England’s Premier League, who often uses press conferences to take the pressure off his team ahead of big games.
Meanwhile, Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi isn’t buying into Queiroz's tactics. “We'll call them favorites too,” Keshi said in his press conference. Iran opens its World Cup Group F campaign on Monday against Keshi’s Nigeria. Argentina is currently top of the group with three points after beating Bosnia-Herzegovina 2-1 in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday.