DOHA – Iran coach Carlos Queiroz said his team deserved at least a draw against the United States after their 1-0 defeat on Tuesday, when their involvement at the World Cup ended.
Iran needed at least a draw in the Group B clash to reach the knockout stage, but the US won through Christian Pulisic’s goal seven minutes before half-time to earn a last-16 clash with the Netherlands.
“Football gods bless those who score goals, and unfortunately we didn’t score,” Queiroz told a news conference.
“I said before the match that the United States were the most consistent team in the first two games,” he added, referring to their draws with Wales and England, who qualified as group winners on seven points after beating the Welsh 3-0.
“The United States started the match as they did against Wales and England... they were better than us, more ferocious and faster, and scored a goal, and I was not surprised by that.
“But in the second half, the situation changed. We took possession of the ball and created more chances than the United States did in the first half and we deserved to score at least a goal.
“The United States players have the speed and if I may say when you play against Ferraris, you need to close the highway, and that’s what we did after the break and we were the better team.”
The Portuguese coach praised his players for their commitment and effort in training and matches.
Iran has been gripped by civil unrest since the September death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody, three days after her arrest for allegedly breaching Iran’s dress code for women.
Iran’s players, pressured by protesters to side with them publicly and condemn a deadly state crackdown, declined to sing the national anthem in their opening match against England.
But they sang before their victory over Wales and again on Tuesday, when they were loudly jeered by their supporters.
According to AFP, citing social media videos, protesters in Iran let off fireworks and celebrated after their national team lost to the US.
“Saqez citizens have started to celebrate and use fireworks after America’s first goal against Iran’s football team,” said the London-based Iran Wire website on Twitter, referring to Amini’s home town.
It shared a video showing fireworks with cheering in the background. AFP could not immediately verify the content.
Another video by Kurdish activist Kaveh Ghoreishi showed a Sanandaj city neighbourhood with cheering and horns blaring after the US scored the only goal of the match.
Fireworks were also used in Mahabad, another city in Kurdistan, following Iran’s loss, according to videos shared online.
The lack of support was not lost on Queiroz, who praised his team for soldiering on despite the troubles at home.
“We train in an atmosphere that is not comparable to other teams, but when I work with the players on a daily basis, they show enthusiasm and desire to represent Iran,” he said.
The Portuguese, who returned to coach Iran for a second stint last September, declined to talk about the late penalty demanded by his players.
Striker Mehdi Taremi went down in the area as defender Cameron Carter-Vickers tried to stop him. Iran’s players surrounded the referee but their protests were waved away.
“I have not seen a replay of it yet, but talking about it now is senseless,” he said. “The United States reached the last 16, and this will not change anything.
“I had previously coached many clubs and national teams, but I have never seen... players who give everything and get nothing in return like the Iranian players.
“Sometimes football is not fair, and we will come back stronger and have succeeded in gaining the respect of the whole world.”