Iran, who were narrowly beaten by Spain in their second FIFA World Cup match, have had a decent outing in Russia so far. They are still in the race for the knockouts and can progress if they manage to beat Portugal in their final Group B fixture.
But good performances by Asian countries, such as Japan or Iran, and African nations, such as Senegal or Morocco, doesn’t mean the two continents are catching up with Europe in footballing standards, says Iran coach Carlos Queiroz.
Queiroz feels FIFA should introduce rules that would allow Asian and African football to develop in the right direction, and, more importantly, at a pace that is close to how Europe is moving forward.
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Iran’s Portuguese coach says the sides from Asia and Africa are still at a disadvantage when it comes to vying on the global stage.
"I have exactly the opposite opinion [about Asia and Africa catching up with Europe in football]," says Queiroz. "Two years ago I said European football has taken off far away from the other countries and continents, who are struggling. Only the nations that have the opportunity to bring players to Europe have a chance to be closer. For Asia the gap is higher, for Africa the gap is higher.”
Queiroz believes the success of African teams in this and previous editions of the World Cup had more to do with how top players from the countries managed to reach Europe and ply their trade there, ending up playing at higher level.
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"There are some teams like Morocco or Senegal we say are African teams, but they're not African teams. They're African players playing in Europe, so all the players who benefit from being in Europe can help national teams, but my opinion, having been in the game 37 years, it is clear," he says.
"Four years ago the gap between Asia and Africa was big, eight years ago it was big and it's still growing, World Cup after World Cup, if the rules don’t change," he adds, insisting that the plan for development has to be tailor-made for different continents.
"The development plans for Asia and Africa cannot be exactly the same as for Europe. You cannot ask Iran to prepare a World Cup [qualifying] game in four days with the same rules as Germany, Brazil and Portugal, it makes no sense," he concludes.
Iran, who beat Morocco 1-0 in their opening Group B game, still have a chance to reach the knockouts, provided they play out of their skin and beat Portugal, the European champions.
(With agency inputs)