By Nick Mulvenney
ABU DHABI, Jan 27 (Reuters) – Carlos Queiroz says his Iran side must believe in themselves and their football when they face four-times champions Japan in Al Ain on Monday looking to book a spot in the Asian Cup final for the first time since 1976.
Iran have been the form team of the tournament on their march to the semi-finals and Queiroz said it would be disastrous to change their approach, even if they were facing “the most prestigious and successful national team in Asia”.
“The most important thing is to be ourselves,” the Portuguese coach told reporters in Al Ain on Sunday.
“It doesn’t make any sense to play one game without being ourselves. After eight years and after so many sacrifices and so many games, now we have one game to play against a great team.
“We need to be ourselves we need to go out on the pitch and, no matter what happens, express our football and say: ‘We are Iran’ and play our football against Japan.”
Ending Iran’s 43-year wait for a fourth continental title has become something of a quest for the former Manchester United assistant in his nearly eight years as coach of Team Melli.
His energetic side have reached the last four without conceding a goal and were clearly the superior team in their knockout matches against Oman and China, taking their tally of goals in the tournament to 12 in five games.
Queiroz will have to shuffle his forward line on Monday, though, after Mehdi Taremi, who scored three of those goals, was suspended for picking up a second yellow card in the quarter-final.
The Samurai Blue have been less impressive with coach Hajime Moriyasu coming under fire for playing too defensively but Queiroz said he had always had huge respect for Japanese football after three years coaching at Nagoya Grampus.
“They have brilliant players, play brilliant football,” he added.
“I did not see anything defensive in this Japan team… they have great movement on the pitch and with their actions and decisions, they are very accurate.
“We have our own weapons to play with but of course we have to pay attention to the Japanese team and adapt and try to control the strong points, and they have a lot.”
Queiroz has been at great pains to downplay the expectations on his team despite the evidence of the tournament, perhaps wary of any complacency taking hold in his camp.
“It’s one more day, one more game,” he said. “As always we would like to be ready and try to play a good football match against a great team from Japan,” he said.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Christian Radnedge)