CURITIBA, Brazil (AP) — Iran's coach Carlos Queiroz sought Sunday to ease the pressure on his players ahead of their opening World Cup game against Nigeria, insisting that international sanctions on the country mean his team is the clear underdog
While bemoaning the effect the sanctions have had on his team, Queiroz heaped praise on the Nigeria team and even said it has the potential to reach the latter stages of the tournament
"The economic and political situations have put a team from Iran at the complete disadvantage in relation to other teams that are here," Queiroz said.
The sanctions, in response to Iran's nuclear program, have not only impacted the economy. They've impacted funding for the Iran football team, which has had difficulty organizing friendlies.
The president of the country's football federation also reportedly suggested the players shouldn't swap shirts with opposing players at the World Cup because of the limited supply.
Queiroz's comments ahead of Monday's Group F match at the Arena de Baixada have echoes in the pre-match routine of Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho. Queiroz's fellow Portuguese often lauds the opponents ahead of big games, and the strategy often works to take pressure off his own team.
If Iran captain Javad Nekounam is anything to go by, Queiroz's approach seems to be working.
"I have no stress, I don't feel any pressure on myself," he said. "We need to be at peace and we need to be calm and enjoy the game tomorrow."