World Cup: Iran coach, former MLS manager Carlos Queiroz upbeat on MLS, USMNT growth
SAO PAULO – Carlos Queiroz is a busy man. So when you get five minutes to sit down the Iranian national team boss, you hightail it out to the Corinthians training center, set up the gear and wait.
His schedule is tight, and by the time Queiroz finished up a meeting with team captain Javad Nekounam on Monday and ambled his way out to the glass-enclosed visitor’s center here in northeast São Paulo, he was already butting up on another scheduled chat with the Iranian football federation president.
All this effort by the still-trim 61-year-old revolves around one thing: results.
After a scoreless draw against Nigeria to start the World Cup, the Group F underdogs narrowly missed out on a famous result against Lionel Messi and Argentina in their second game. A wonder goal in the final moments by one of the world's best players was the only thing that spoiled what would have been a famous result in Iranian soccer history.
For good reason, Queiroz wasn’t particularly happy with the refereeing in that match, as a penalty and red-card shout was waved off by head official Milorad Mazic, leaving Iran with work to do to reach the next round.
"How can this guy sleep tonight, or for the rest of his life?" Queiroz told reporters after the match. "With all respect, I would like to have the opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation with him. Why did he do that to us?"
He’ll likely never get an answer to that, but there is still one final chance for Iran to move on to the knockout stage. They’ll face Bosnia-Herzegovina in their final match on Wednesday (noon ET, ESPN2) with a chance to at making history for the Middle Eastern nation.
Unfortunately for Vancouver Whitecaps fans, it’s unlikely MLS product Steven Beitashour will play in that match after not seeing any action through the first 180 minutes.
Still, Queiroz says he still keeps up on the American game after coaching the New York/New Jersey MetroStars in 1996 and he has followed the progression of the US national team as well.
MLSsoccer.com's Andrew Wiebe sat down for a conversation with Queiroz this week, and the following is an edited version of that interview. Watch the video if the interview above.
MLSsoccer.com: Do you still follow MLS at all? What do you think the progression has been from when you coached the MetroStars until the present?
Queiroz: I’m not following live in terms of my personal availability, because the last time I was in the States was four years ago. But I had one opportunity to see a MetroStars game at the stadium – not the new stadium but [Giants Stadium] – and I realized immediately the huge evolution and transformation that MLS had been able to reach in a consistent way.
That is the most important thing for MLS. They’ve been very consistent year after year. They’re not prospecting decisions. Now it’s just a question of time. Miracles and magic steps in football are very expensive. Money talks. You can only create a miracle when you have money to pay guys like [Lionel] Messi and [Sergio] Agüero to bring at the same time to one team. That is not the option of MLS, which I believe is the right thing to do.
You see the national team is showing that, the players are year after year more competitive. There is a long way to go, but they’ve been doing very well and consistent.
MLSsoccer.com: You’ve coached at the highest levels, both national team and club. Sometimes we hear that American players don’t get the opportunities that maybe an Argentinian or a Spaniard or whoever else might get in the big leagues in Europe. Do you think that’s true?
Queiroz: It’s not because they're Americans or the others are Argentinians. It’s because you are good enough or you are not good enough. The coaches – I have been working in those teams also – we don’t care if the player is American, Iranian, Mozambique or Portuguese. When he’s good enough and fulfills our expectations, we go for it.
It’s a long way to go. Argentinians, they start to compete with that mentality since eight or nine years old. You don’t have that in the United States, so they miss a couple of years to be in that level. Portugal is a small country. It’s 10 million people. But with six, seven years old, our football players they go for everything. It’s almost a survival challenge that they have in life to play football.
When that happens and when they reach 18, 19 years old, they are one step ahead of American kids that don’t compete in the right way, that don’t train in the right way during those years. There are a lot of things to change, a long way to go.
When the players are ready, believe me there is no doubt the coaches in Europe that choose players independent of the skin, religion, nationality [will take them]. We only care about one thing: You are good enough or you’re not.
MLSsoccer.com: The US in this World Cup have maybe exceeded expectations a little bit. What have you thought of the US program under Jurgen Klinsmann?
Queiroz: Me, I’m not surprised. I saw the team competing. I saw the evolution of the team, the group, the way the team approaches the preparation. I’m not surprised. I’m also not surprised about the lack of performance from Portugal.