Portugal v Iran preview
A Seleção das Quinas go into Monday night’s encounter with Iran in Saransk needing a draw to advance to the knockout stages of this World Cup.
Standing in their way is twice Portugal national team manager Carlos Queiroz and Iran, whom could advance at Portugal’s expense with a win. Queiroz, a one-time assistant to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, is often credited with helping develop Cristiano Ronaldo into the player he is today.
And Queiroz’s unpleasant exit from the national team job shortly after the 2010 World Cup, should add further intrigue to this matchup.
Portugal followed up the high of a 3-3 draw with Spain, with a lacklustre display against Morocco. Cristiano Ronaldo’s early header was enough to overcome the Africans but manager Fernando Santos was not happy in the post-game interview and let his team know that he expects a better performance against Iran.
In terms of team news, João Moutinho missed training on Friday and Saturday with an illness and is now a doubt for this match. Raphael Guerreiro sat out Friday after complaining of pain in his thigh but returned to training the next day.
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Iran opened up their World Cup campaign with a 1-0 win against Morooco thanks to a last-minute own-goal. They also held Spain for most of the match, before conceding a Diego Costa early goal in the second half. The Iranians have looked a well-organized, disciplined unit in this tournament and should present a formidable challenge for Portugal.
Queiroz told a group of Portuguese journalists on Saturday that the pressure is on the European nation on Monday. Little was expected of his team and they have already exceeded expectations and could still go further if they beat Portugal.
This match will mark only the third time these two countries have faced one another. The most recent previous meeting came in the group stage at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, with Portugal coming out on top 2-0. Deco and a penalty scored by Cristiano Ronaldo was the difference that day in Frankfurt.
The other time they faced each other was at the Independence Cup held in Brazil in 1972, a competition not recognized by FIFA. Portugal won 3-0 on that day and eventually finished second in that tournament behind the hosts.
What the managers say
Fernando Santos (Portugal): “We have to be aggressive, not allow the opponent to play. We need to win more individual battles, more one-on-one duels, and to put our full offensive capacity on display.”
Carlos Queiroz (Iran): “We are facing a team that has the obligation to win. Portugal has the magic formula to win the World Cup. They have a strong squad with a player in Cristiano Ronaldo, who could make a difference at any moment.”
Portugal: Patricio, Cedric, Pepe, Fonte, Guerreiro, William, Moutinho, João Mário, Bernardo Silva, Cristiano Ronaldo, André Silva.
Iran: Beiranvand, Rezaeian, Pouraliganji, Hosseini, Hajsafi, Ezatolahi, Ansarifard, Amiri, Ebrahimi, Taremi and Azmoun
By Rui Martins