By Michael Church
Sept 17 (Reuters) – Iran are racing against time to be ready for the World Cup finals, but returning coach Carlos Queiroz is confident upcoming friendly matches against Uruguay and Senegal can help prepare his team for November’s tournament in Qatar.
After months of speculation, Queiroz was named last week to replace Croatia’s Dragan Skocic at the helm but the former Real Madrid and Portugal coach has only a little over two months to fine tune the squad.
Queiroz returns after stints with the national teams of Colombia and Egypt. He took Egypt to the verge of qualification for Qatar this year.
He will be working with a squad he knows well from his eight-year stint in Tehran, having led Iran at the 2014 and 2018 World Cups. He left the role after his side’s semi-final exit from the Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates in January 2019.
“This is our first step towards preparing for the World Cup,” the 69-year-old said of the training camp in Austria, which begins next week and sees Iran take on Uruguay on Sept. 23 and then Senegal four days later.
“We will do our best both on and off the field to get ready for the competition. It’s our responsibility to improve the conditions and make progress and always move forward,” media quoted him as saying in Tehran.
Queiroz has named a 27-man squad for the camp as he prepares his team for a challenging World Cup campaign that will see the Iranians open the competition against England on Nov. 21 before going on to face Wales and the United States.
Sixteen of the 23 players selected for the World Cup finals in Russia four years ago have been included in the roster picked for the camp, including 35-year-old Omid Ebrahimi.
The midfielder, who plays his club football in Qatar for Al Wakrah, was a stand-out performer under Queiroz in 2018 but has made only two appearances for Iran since November 2019.
Other familiar faces include goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand as well as strike duo Sardar Azmoun of Bayer Leverkusen and Porto’s Mehdi Taremi.
“As a professional coach, I know that all teams in the world have progressed,” said Queiroz. “We will also do our best to face our opponents in Qatar and will be fully prepared for the campaign.”
(Reporting by Michael Church in Hong Kong, Editing by Edwina Gibbs)