Iran coach Carlos Queiroz is refusing to be distracted by Spain’s coaching calamities as his team prepare to kick off their 2018 World Cup campaign against Morocco in Saint Petersburg.
Spain and Queiroz’s native Portugal make up the rest of Group B but the 65-year-old insisted it would be “disrespectful” to bring up the sudden departure of Julen Lopetegui to Real Madrid.
Queiroz, himself a former Real Madrid coach, deflected questions on the issue at his pre-match press conference, saying: “It would be disrespectful to Morocco if I shifted my words to Spain.
“Morocco are a great team with great players and they are one of the favourites to move through to the second round, alongside Portugal and Spain.
“We admit they are favourites but we do not tolerate the suggestion that we are not capable of winning. We love to deal with these moments of pressure because this is what it is all about.
“We are here to celebrate the sacrifices and commitments that we made over the last four years to be part of this competition, and we must remember that nothing will be decided after tomorrow’s game.”
Morocco coach Herve Renard confirmed he will be without winger Nabil Derar, who is making a gradual recovery from a calf injury.
And, ahead of the opener, the Frenchman sent a defiant message to those who consider the north African team – making their first World Cup finals appearance since 1998 – amongst the also-rans.
Renard said: “We feel very lucky to be here and we have major teams to face. But we are not here to take pictures of the monuments in Saint Petersburg – we are here because we want to compete.
“Since we’ve got here, we shouldn’t be feeling the pressure too much. We have been giving a lot of thought to the Iran team and I think we have reached the right level in our preparations. It is vital to get points in the opening match.”