Iran coach Carlos Queiroz has strongly criticised FIFA’s decision to introduce video assistant referees at the World Cup, saying it has taken the game away from the fans and created confusion.
The former Manchester United assistant manager was speaking ahead of Iran’s Group B decider against his native Portugal – a team he managed between 2008 and 2010 – in Saransk on Monday.
Having beaten Morocco and lost to Spain, Iran know a win against the European champions would see them advance to the knockout stage for the first time but they are still upset that Saeid Ezatolahi’s late equaliser against Spain was disallowed for offside after a VAR review, albeit correctly.
Asked whether he was concerned Iran could suffer more VAR-related misery against Portugal, Queiroz started his answer by saying he did not want to talk about that as it might sound like he was “making excuses”.
But he did not stop there. In fact, he continued to speak on the matter for another five minutes “on behalf of the game”.
He said it was important “intellectuals did not try to intellectualise” the game and “take it away from the people”, and he claimed that making mistakes is human but what VAR was doing “was inhumane”.
He explained that if teams had a question about how to deal concussions or a security issue “we would get a meeting straightaway” but if they ask for “a clarification” on VAR they are told to write to FIFA, who say they will deal with it after the tournament.
“We have a game tomorrow. We need to know who is really refereeing the game. The people deserve to know who is refereeing the game when they sit in their stands,” he said.
He was just warming up, though, as he then compared FIFA’s apparent directive to VARs that they only correct “clear and obvious mistakes” to his worrying about his daughter being a “little bit pregnant or not”.
“It’s a question of principle – nobody understands the rules,” he said. “The game cannot move in this direction.”
On the actual game, Queiroz said his players could not wait to test themselves against Cristiano Ronaldo and the rest of Portugal’s “great players”, and claimed this would be his team’s “most difficult challenge”.
Asked if he had a plan to stop Ronaldo, a player he knows well from United and Portugal, he would only say that Iran would stick to their philosophy of the “three Rs”: respect for their opponents, realism about their own strengths and weaknesses and a romantic view of how good teams beat good individuals.
That is a point that would get no argument from Portugal’s Pepe, for once, as the notoriously combative defender told reporters his side would stick to team-first ethic that has served them well in recent years, even if they have to keep fielding questions about being a one-man side.
“We’re warriors and we’re going to play with solidarity,” said Pepe.
His coach Fernando Santos also played down the significance of Queiroz taking on his own country, describing him as “a friend and a great professional” who would be doing his best for Iran, in the same way that Santos would be doing his best to beat him.