Saint Petersburg (AFP) – Carlos Queiroz said Iran may have won their World Cup ‘final’ against Morocco on Friday but he already has his sights set on a “Universe Cup final” against Spain.
Iran have emerged as the early challengers to Spain and Portugal in Group B after Aziz Bouhaddouz’s 95th-minute own-goal sealed a dramatic 1-0 win in Saint Petersburg.
It was only Iran’s second World Cup victory in the country’s history and means Queiroz’s side head into their clash against La Roja on Wednesday with momentum and hope.
“If the game against Morocco was the World Cup final for us, the game against Spain will be the Universe Cup final,” Queiroz said.
Iran’s build-up to this tournament had not been smooth. Nike had blocked the players’ supply of boots only four days before their opening game while further back, friendlies against Greece and Kosovo were cancelled.
“It was not a miracle that we won,” Queiroz said. “Superman is only in the cartoons. Nobody is superman.
“What can happen once in a while is a group of people, when they are united, we can create super stories and super things. Our attitiude is to try and make the impossible, possible.”
Queiroz, once of Real Madrid and Manchester United, insisted the chaos that has engulfed Spain this week offered no boost to his team’s chances, but this victory certainly cranks the pressure up a notch.
When Bouhaddouz nodded in at the near post, Iran’s substitutes could not resist rushing onto the field. When the final whistle blew moments later they were sprinting over again in delight.
“It was crazy, we don’t realise yet we have done something historical,” said Iran’s Alireza Jahanbakhsh. “I was crying as well. I got goosebumps with the feeling I got from the fans.
“We are not in Iran but I have spoken with my family and friends and they say people are going crazy in the streets and that’s all that matters.
“With all the things happening all round the world right now, football is one of the biggest things that can make people happy. Football can change people’s lives.”
Morocco can at least take heart from a blistering first half an hour, during which their zip and zest lacked only an opening goal.
Bouhaddouz, on as a second-half substitute, apologised for his error, which surely leaves his team needing to beat either Spain or Portugal to keep their hopes of progress alive.
“It is a bitter moment for me,” Bouhaddouz said. “Unfortunately, it happens in football and today it happened to me.
“I can only apologise to the team, the fans and the 35 million people in Morocco. For sure, I will give my best in the next games.”