Uli Stielike must be scratching his head wondering which team will his counterpart Carlos Queiroz will arrange in Azadi comes Tuesday. The Portuguese coach played 3 different line ups against Qatar, China and Uzbekistan leaving the German coach wondering which game plan he shall deploy.
Queiroz last line up against Uzbekistan must have alarmed quite a few and was bordering high risk for some critics. No one bench 3 of his top players while playing against the top of the table team in away match in a World Cup qualifier! Queiroz, however, did exactly that and to put the icing on the cake, his players won and to make it taste even sweeter, they played one of their finest football in years.
For over 20 minutes in Tashkent, Team Melli was pressing the host, Uzbekistan on the other hand were running out of ideas and short of confidence. The only span of time that the host managed to threaten, but not effectively, was the early minutes of the second half. After that, Iran regained control, Queiroz masterplan worked like a charm and his players executed it to perfection grabbing all 3 points with this sweet victory away from home.
Whatever the reasons for the constant changing line up by Queiroz (quite uncharacteristic for the ex-Real Madrid and Portugal coach) the man knew exactly what he was doing and that is confirmed by the fact that Iran is heading the table ahead of the other 5 teams.
Queiroz is no stranger to the Koreans battles and thrives in beating the record holders of most Asian team appearances in the World Cup. In the last edition of the qualification, it was that egotistical unwitting South Korean coach Choi Kang-hee who vowed that Carlos Queiroz will have to watch next year’s World Cup in Brazil on television.
The two coaches have traded verbal volleys in the lead-up to that decisive clash in Ulsan and at the end , Choi Kang-hee was the one who ended up watching World Cup on a Samsung TV while Queiroz and the boys was battling it out against the likes of the great Lionel Messi in Brazil.
There is no such animosity between Stielike and Queiroz who have strong mutual respect for each other, however, that does not dilute the intensity of the match in any way. Stielike must be unsettled trying to figure out what Queiroz is up to tactically. Queiroz putting a lot of thoughts on how to take advantage of the Korean defensive vulnerability, which has conceded 4 goals in 3 matches.
Team Melli is a good shape to grab all the 3 points and looks like the favorite ahead of the World Cup qualifying showpiece event in Azadi. The passionate Iranian fans in the eve of Ashoora could make a big difference too.