SARANSK, Russia (Reuters) - Only three points against Portugal on Monday will save Iran’s dream of progressing to the knockout stages of the World Cup but they cannot afford all out attack against the European champions, team Melli coach Carlos Queiroz said on Sunday.
Iran got off to a winning start in St Petersburg with a Moroccan own goal but then lost 1-0 to Spain in a hard-fought match in Kazan.
Portugal and Spain, who take on already ousted Morocco, are on four points and only need a draw from their respective matches. Yet Iran are just a point behind and must beat Portugal to progress from group B.
The stoic Iran defense has only been breached in their Russian campaign when the ball ricocheted off Spain forward Diego Costa’s knee to go in. They ran Spain ragged with waves of attacks but failed to find the net.
Asked if he will “let the dogs out” against Portugal, Queiroz said they would have to be pragmatic.
“Well, I think that will be difficult because (Portugal coach) Fernando (Santos) comes with very strong animals and they can bite quite hard, I would say,” the 65-year-old Portuguese manager told reporters.
The stability and pragmatism of Queiroz’s seven-year reign, which will come to an end after the tournament with the Portuguese already having announced his decision to quit, has firmly established Iran as Asia’s number one team.
But they have never managed to get out of the group stage in their four previous appearances.
Queiroz, a former Portugal and Real Madrid manager, said his team will play against his countrymen on a policy of three ‘R’s — respect, realism and romanticism.
Calling Portugal one of the strongest sides in the world and one of the firm favorites to lift the trophy, Queiroz said it was a big opportunity for his side to play against established stars like Cristiano Ronaldo.
“We have only one alternative — to be better than Portugal in every aspect,” the manager said. “We didn’t come here to be nice losers, we have come here to work with dignity and pride for Iran supporters.
“We are going to fight for 90 minutes tomorrow.”
Queiroz did not divulge the plans he had for Real Madrid forward Ronaldo, who has scored all four of Portugal’s goals in the campaign.
“We have a dream and we fight for that dream, we have nothing to lose,” he added. “They have everything to lose.”
Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Ian Chadband