Carlos Queiroz, the master of defence, has to press forward with Iran

Carlos Quieroz is carried on the shoulders of his Iran players after they qualified for the World Cup 2014. Photograph: Amin M. Jamali/Getty Images

Sir Alex Ferguson’s former assistant admits international sanctions and a lack of starsplay into his conservative instincts

Only two sides in this World Cup went longer before conceding their first goal than Iran – and when that goal was scored it was a brilliant arcing shot from 25 yards from Lionel Messi, at a moment at which all 11 Iranian players were behind the ball. So far Iran have been able to resist everything but genius and the credit for that lies largely with one man: Carlos Queiroz.

The 61-year-old is a master of defensive tactics. He proved that in his time as assistant coach at Manchester United – Gary Neville and Patrice Evra have both spoken glowingly of how he set the team up to stifle Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final in 2008, and it is noticeable how less defensively secure they have been, particularly in Europe since he left to take charge of Portugal shortly after United’s Champions League success.

There has been criticism, of course, and there was booing during the 0-0 draw against Nigeria but, as Queiroz has explained, with a squad without stars whose preparations have been severely disrupted by sanctions, he has had little option but to follow his conservative instincts. Queiroz has announced his intention to leave his post after the tournament, complaining about a lack of government support, but it says much for the impact he has had that his players are desperate for him to stay. “If Queiroz leaves,” the Charlton striker Reza Ghoochannejhad told Iranwire, “Iranian football will be the loser. It would be a bad thing. Queiroz has been in Iranian football for three years and knows all the players. I cannot believe he won’t be there after the World Cup. I hope he stays with the team.”

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