By Nick Mulvenney
KAZAN, Russia, June 20 (Reuters) – Iran’s dream of reaching the knockout stage of the World Cup survived Wednesday’s loss to Spain and coach Carlos Queiroz promised his team would give their absolute all to take their second chance against his native Portugal next week.
Queiroz said his players deserved huge credit for their battling performance after going down 1-0 to a freak Diego Costa goal and having a score of their own rubbed out after being reviewed by the Video Assistant Referee (VAR).
“We were ready to suffer and ready to compete and ready to try our chances to win the game. Football is not like this but it is fair to say we deserved a better result,” said Queiroz.
“But this was our first match point, if we compare this to tennis, our second match point comes against Portugal. We’re still alive and dreaming.”
Iran had relied almost entirely on their steely defence to keep them in the match for the first 54 minutes and it was only after the ball had deflected off Costa’s knee and into the net that they took the game to the Spanish.
Queiroz had no complaints about the VAR decision which ruled out Saeid Ezatolahi’s strike for offside, preferring instead to rue that it had not been around at the 2010 World Cup when his Portugal were beaten by a contentious Spain goal.
Iran’s opening victory over Morocco means they trail the two Iberian powers by a single point in Group B with all to play for against the European champions in Saransk next Monday.
“We are not shy, we go for it, we are really determined,” Queiroz added. “We know it will be tough but we don’t come here expecting easy things. We only have one thing in mind.”
Iran went down narrowly to Argentina at the last World Cup with a similarly battling performance only, exhausted by their efforts, lost 3-1 to Bosnia and Herzegovina in their final group match.
For Iran to finally achieve their dream against Portugal, Queiroz thought, would be all the more remarkable given the gulf that has opened up between European countries and the rest of the football world.
“I think two years ago European football took off and they are far away from all the national teams,” he said.
“The other continents are struggling. The gap is just getting bigger and bigger.”
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Pritha Sarkar)