Ching.org.cn – BEIJING, Iran lost 6-2 to England in their opening game in Group B of the FIFA World Cup at the Khalifa International Stadium in the Qatari capital Doha on Monday.
Football experts had already predicted a tough match for the Asian powerhouse against star-studded England, and their predictions proved right.
Portuguese manager of Iran Carlos Queiroz, who had described Gareth Southgate’s England as strongest since 1966, however, said his side could beat the powerful European team in the opener.
Queiroz, whose choice of 11 starting lineup against England shocked all and conceded a 6-2 defeat, defended his men’s lackluster performance in a news conference after the match.
In response to a question posed by a reporter about what he called the “wrong” starting lineup, Queiroz dismissed it and said, “what was wrong in this match was England players’ quality, speed, and rivalry. England’s quick play in the first 20 minutes helped it find the net twice, leaving us shocked.”
Touching upon the lineup, Queiroz said, “we have to watch the game again and see what occurred during the match and learn lessons from our review.”
But former striker of Iran, Khodadad Azizi, told Varzesh 3 website that Queiroz’ unexpected change in Iran’s lineup is to blame for the side’s poor performance against England.
Azizi said all substitutes fielded in the second half, Mohammad Hossein Kanaanizadegan, Ali Gholizadeh, Mehdi Torabi, Saeid Ezatolahi, and Sardar Azmoun, played satisfactory roles.
He called on Queiroz to choose the regular lineup for the next two matches against Wales and the United States.
“Today’s loss is a big lesson,” the head coach said, hoping that his squad would pass through this tough day.
“We were plucky and fought and did what we could on the pitch,” said Queiroz, adding that “we have still two games in hand in the World Cup and would do our best to win them”.
Talking about England’s performance, the manager said his team learned a lot from their opponents.
“Our players are not as experienced as England’s footballers,” he said. “Today’s game will help us play better football in our next match. We are now better prepared for the match against Wales.
“The competitions are at the highest level and the ground has been prepared for us to do our job. We will try to emerge victorious in the next game.
“Concentration is what we need. It is important for us to learn lessons from what happened (today).”
Queiroz, who is now under pressure from Iranian fans and experts, blamed the current conditions for his men’s lack of concentration on the field and strongly criticized those in the stadium’s stands for not cheering the team, Varzesh 3 reported.
“We will not welcome those who try to disrupt our efforts with some issues that are not related to football,” said the head coach.
“Let footballers play football, as they want to represent their country and make their people happy.”
He also regretted the unexpected incident in the early minutes of the first half that forced him to replace his No. 1 goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand with a broken nose.
Former Tottenham Spur manager Harry Redknapp talked to state TV IRIB’s Channel 3 during the break after the first half and said, “it was an easy match for England and Iran failed to react to back-to-back attacks.”
The top-notch expert said England would have scored more than three goals if the first half had lasted longer.
Now, the Iranians have to wait and see what their team will do in the next two deciding games against Wales and the United States.