St. Petersburg: Iran coach Carlos Queiroz said Thursday that his players have been brought closer together by Nike’s decision to cut their supply of World Cup kit to the team but the acid test will come Friday against Morocco.
Nike announced they have been forbidden from providing football boots to Iran’s squad during the tournament, on account of sanctions imposed against the country by the United States.
The late decision has disrupted Iran’s preparations, with some players reportedly having to buy their own footwear from Russian shops or even ask club team-mates for help.
“It has been a source of inspiration for us,” Queiroz told Sky Sports. “This last comment of Nike was, in my personal view, an unnecessary statement. Everybody is aware about the sanctions. They should come out and apologise because this arrogant conduct against 23 boys is absolutely ridiculous and unnecessary,” added the coach.
Morocco are a good side, but we have the ability to surprise them… in fact we can be the surprise package in the group
Iran head into the match against Morocco in Group B on the back of a difficult build-up to the tournament after friendly matches against Greece and Kosovo were also cancelled.
It remains to be seen whether Queiroz’s defiant verdict bears fruit, given any loser of Friday’s crunch fixture here Petersburg would be left needing to beat either Spain or Portugal to reach the last 16.
“We have the potential to surprise Morocco in our first match,” Queiroz told reporters. “We know their team very well but I suspect they know very little about us.”
Iran may be on top of the Asian rankings, but they will certainly have a job on their hands when they take on Morocco, who have managed not to concede a single goal during their own stellar qualifying campaign.
French coach Herve Renard has instilled a relentless work ethic and defensive discipline in his team but this will be the country’s first outing at a World Cup since 1998 and organisation will take the Atlas Lions only so far. “We have a tough draw,” Renard said. “It will be a matter of making the most of any chances we get.”