ABU DHABI (AFP) - Iran coach Carlos Queiroz blasted his critics after his side crushed Yemen 5-0 on Monday (Jan 7) to fire an ominous warning to their Asian Cup title rivals.
The former Real Madrid boss praised his players for "suffocating" the Group D minnows in Abu Dhabi as they ruined the war-torn country's first outing at the Asian Cup.
But his mood turned dark when informed former national coach Branko Ivankovic, now in charge of Iran's most popular club Persepolis and a feuding adversary, had been talking up Iraq's coach Srecko Katanec while goading Queiroz to beat their bitter rivals.
"Now we turn to home affairs," sighed the Portuguese, who has frequently clashed with Iranian football officials and media since taking the job in 2011.
"This is the gentleman who used to call Iranian football a circus," added Queiroz, putting the boot into Croatian Ivankovic after dominating their opening Asian Cup fixture.
"At the moment 65 to 70 million people across Iran are praying for the national team, this intelligent man comes along to praise Iraq and its coach - brilliant, genius!" Mehdi Taremi scored twice for Iran, who are looking to end a 43-year title drought since last winning Asian football's most coveted prize.
Joint favourites with South Korea, Iran took just 12 minutes to take the lead as Taremi finished clinically from close range after a shot from Sardar Azmoun was fumbled by Yemen keeper Saud Alsowadi.
Captain Ashkan Dejagah doubled his side's lead in the 23rd minute with a low free kick which cannoned in off the post and the hapless Alsowadi before Taremi powered home a header moments later.
Azmoun tapped in a fourth goal seven minutes into the second half, by which time Iran were playing some champagne football, pulling off extravagant flicks and back-heels that left Yemen's players chasing shadows.
When substitute Saman Ghoddos volleyed home Iran's fifth from the edge of the box after 78 minutes the Yemen players looked physically shattered.
Only the woodwork prevented Mahdi Torabi adding a spectacular sixth in injury time.
"Fortunately for us the first goal came early and when you score early, it gives you the confidence and tranquility to control the game," said Queiroz, who has been linked with the Colombia job.
"We didn't give Yemen time to breathe." Iraq take on Vietnam in the other Group D game on Tuesday.
With players kidnapped by extremists, others going off to fight in the mountains or struggling to make ends meet driving taxis or working in supermarkets, just qualifying for the Asian Cup was an astonishing achievement for Yemen.
"I told the players at half-time to keep their heads up," said Yemen's Slovakian coach Jan Kocian.
"We lost 5-0 and we have to live with the result but we have two more games and we can play better."