Iran coach Quieroz refuses to be drowned out by background noise
Al-Ain (United Arab Emirates) (AFP)
A series of blaring loudspeaker announcements repeatedly silenced Iran coach Carlos Queiroz on Sunday -- just as he was urging his team to express themselves in their Asian Cup semi-final against Japan.
"Shut up!" The 65-year-old Portuguese said to giggles after the fifth interruption, before he was finally able to conclude his remarks on Monday's game at Al Ain's Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium.
"What's important is, we have a great team, great players, but we cannot lose our identity," he said. "We need to be ourselves and play with confidence and trust."
The technical hitch is far from the only problem faced by Iran, who are dealing with nuclear sanctions and internal discord.
Iran, who won the last of their three titles in 1976, have also dealt with injuries and AFC warnings over government interference as they bid to end their 43-year drought.
Although Queiroz has dismissed talk that Iran are favourites, and went out of his way to praise Japan's "brilliant football", the ex-Manchester United, Real Madrid and Portugal coach must be scenting blood.
Asia's top-ranked side are yet to concede in the competition, scoring 12 goals and impressively sweeping aside Marcello Lippi's China 3-0 in the quarter-finals.
Hajime Moriyasu's Japan, meanwhile, have eked out one-goal wins in each of their five games. Hosts UAE and Qatar play the other semi-final in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.
Iran's 2015 Asian Cup ended in acrimony, when Australian referee Ben Williams gave Mehrdad Pooladi his second yellow card -- for time-wasting -- in the first half of their quarter-final against Iraq.
Iran eventually lost the combustible clash on penalties, but 2015 veteran Masoud Shojaei said Team Melli had no concerns that Monday's semi would be refereed by another Australian, Chris Beath.
"We don't think about that anymore, that's in the past," said the 34-year-old midfielder. "Mr. Williams made a mistake, just like anyone else."
"Our target and our focus is to keep our concentration and stick to our plan... Hopefully we can bring our 'little friend' back home," he added, referring to the trophy.
© 2019 AFP