(Reuters) – Iran coach Carlos Queiroz has demanded a high-intensity start from his top-ranked team in next month’s Asian Cup opener against debutants Yemen.
Iran head into the tournament in the United Arab Emirates as one of the favourites for the title and Portuguese Queiroz said they must make their presence felt starting with the first Group D clash in Abu Dhabi on Jan. 7.
“I want to develop this kind of instinct in my team, to keep all of our energy so that it explodes in the 90 minutes against Yemen,” Queiroz told the AFC website.
“And when we finish the game, then it’s time to think about Vietnam and after that Iraq.”
Queiroz described the clash against Yemen, ranked 25 places below Iran in the Asian standings, as a “crucial” match and urged his team not to underestimate their opponents.
“The first game is always the most difficult because it’s everything for the winner and almost nothing for the loser in a short competition of three games,” Queiroz added.
“There are no small teams… I was checking the results of the Iran team in different competitions, at under 17s, under 20s, and never has Iran beaten Yemen in official competition.
“There’s a reason for that: Yemen might draw or lose, but Yemen are a tough team to beat.”
Iran are looking to end a 43-year wait for their fourth title. They crashed out of the last Asian Cup on penalties to Iraq in a thrilling quarter-final.
At this year’s World Cup in Russia, Iran narrowly missed advancing from the group stage for the first time.
“When the game starts against Yemen, we need to get rid of the frustrations we have around the team and focus on ourselves. It’s about the 11 boys on the pitch that start the game… and we need to go for it,” Queiroz added.
“We cannot start a game like this in the Asian Cup and think about anything else. It’s 90 minutes to play for the people, to play for the joy and happiness and pride of Iran.”
The Asian Cup begins on Jan. 5.
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru, editing by Pritha Sarkar)