IR Iran head coach Carlos Queiroz has insisted that his team are not the favourites as they face Marcello Lippi’s China PR in the quarterfinals of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 on Thursday.
Iran have won four games on the trot at the tournament so far while China stumbled against Korea Republic in their final group match before defeating Thailand 2-1 in the last 16 to book the quarterfinal spot.
Iran, Asia’s top-ranked team in FIFA World Rankings, have been tipped as favourites to end their 43-year-old wait for the Asian Cup this year. But Queiroz feels there are no clear favourites in Thursday’s clash at the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
“We are not favourites as I feel there are never favourites in a game like this. We are proud to be here for a game which is the most important game of our lives because it is the next game, and that is always the most crucial for both players and coaches,” the former Real Madrid manager said.
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“The game versus China is a new game, a new adventure, and one in which we can try to do our absolute best. However, what is key is to remember all the lessons we have learned – both when we have won and when we have lost – and put them to good use,” said the Portuguese coach.
“This is just like a cup final as they are games which do not have a history, they do not have a past. You cannot lose a game because of history or statistics. This type of cup final match is very different to those we faced in the group stage and I believe the experience my players have will count for something in the game,” he said.
The match will also see two of the tournament’s most experienced coaches going against each other and Queiroz said that China will be well-prepared under World Cup-winning Italian coach Lippi.
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“China are a solid and well-prepared team with a great coach. We know a difficult task is in front of us, but we are excited and fully prepared. We are confident that we will play well, as we have the ability, our ambitions and our dreams,” he said.
“I want my players to keep it simple as football really is a simple game. It is just 90 minutes of 11 versus 11 and the players need to enjoy the match, enjoy the experience. If we are able to play with freedom and joy, I believe we will do well.”