''Russia became more disciplined and united than at the Confederations Cup''
What Iranians and Russians talked about before the yesterday’s match at Kazan Arena
Russian journalists had a quest before seeing the Iranians' work with their own eyes at the pre-match open training of the national team of Iran. Realnoe Vremya's reporter visited the warm-up of the training session and press conference of Carlos Queiroz and Sardar Azmun and knew that Asian football was different from European, how Azmun improved his position on the pitch and what the Russians were the best at. Realnoe Vremya told about these and other details.
''The best result is if we gain experience and become stronger before the WC''
The first part of the 15-minute open training of the guests was not very interesting. The Iranian players went to the remote corner of Kazan Arena's pitch like Eastern teams do where journalists did not have access. When the press and TV representatives were finally allowed to pass there, Queiroz&Co ran to the remote flag. So the guests were running away from the writing and shooting brotherhood as if they had had leprosy.
Warm-up, small dribbling improvement, pass with alternative positions – the national team of Iran demonstrated nothing superstitious or unseen for football fans from the European continent. But Carlos Queiroz and his players, Sardar Azmun and Saeid Ezatolahi, who both play in the Russian championship, focused on differences of European and Asian football during the whole press conference.
Queiroz said that Russia demonstrated itself well in the match against South Korea. In his opinion, it was an interesting game. The main difference between Russian and Asian players is in the experience, including European. It is important for them to gain their experience. The head coach said they followed European teams, including Russia. The national team of Russia became more disciplined and united than at the Confederations Cup, he told. The expert shared it would be difficult for them because the Russian players were more experienced, and they needed to become stronger step by step.
In the FIFA rating, the Iranian squad is higher than Russia. In answer to the question whether they considered themselves favourites, the coach said they respected the Russian team. This rating often reflects some temporary state of affairs. So he said not to pay attention to it but, of course, it was better to be first in this rating than the 100 th. Carlos Queiroz added it was an entertainment for fans anyway, like a reality show between teams. And he repeated that experience was the main difference between European and Asian football. Winning, his players get experience and become more prepared for the World Cup. And they wanted to become better as a team.
Sardar Azmun: ''I am 100% sure that I will continue making progress and score''
Meanwhile, the players and coaches finally approached the active training phase. They started quite familiar and generally accepted exercises. The defenders put green bibs on, forwards remained in red training tops. And the wings played with their partners and then crossed the ball to the zone where they fought for it. Not all the forwards managed to receive the ball successfully – the defenders were at the summit at times, and the goalkeepers helped. But a small masterpiece was born if the ball luckily was received by a forward's head or leg. Either Azmun performed scissors or somebody had a header while falling. It seemed that Queiroz did everything to make Iran look like a European team as much as possible whom he praises a lot.
Both 'Russian' Iranian-born players agreed with the evaluation of the place of European and Asian players in world football that was stated by their coach. Then Azmun took the floor:
I don't differentiate players. Although, of course, there is a big difference between Asian and European football.
You are the main star of Iranian football for Russian fans. Will tomorrow's game be especial for you?
All the players of our team are stars from the goalkeeper to the forwards. Of course, those players who play at the international level draw more public attention. Our task is to accomplish the goal of the coach and work at every training, in every match.
Many people consider you personally stopped improving. What can you say about it?
I respect any criticism. It is logical that there are different opinions. But it is up to the coach to judge. Everyone has ups and downs. But I am 100% sure that I will reach the previous level with great concentration and support of fans.
And Saeid Ezatolahi joined the conversation:
The match with Russia is very important for us. It is a privilege to play with it. Both our and your team grow.
Do you feel you make progress in the Russian Football Premier League?
It is good experience to play in Russia. In the last season, I played in the Champions League. There was a difficult moment. But I feel the support, including from Carlos Queiroz. The last matches at Amkar showed we were on the right path. Now I think about the upcoming World Cup only.
''In Russia, everybody is good at two things – politics and football''
But Stanislav Cherchesov brought Zenit's forward Fyodor Smolov with him to the press conference, which looked a bit strange. Because even the Iranians understood that football players from the local club would be more interesting for Russian journalists.
Cherchesov noted that the Iranian team was no less fast and organised than the Korean one:
This team is stronger in head-to-head fights, they are more athletic. Iran has not lost in its zone in the last 2 years. They are higher in the FIFA rating, and it means something. We saw Iran's previous matches, including the match against Syria. And if they don't invent something different, we know what they want. As for our schedule after the match against Korea, we had training the next day, had lunch, had a rest and headed to Kazan. There was not any halt, somebody visited somebody – we have such a possibility, then we went to sleep.
Fyodor Smolov could not help but make snarky remarks about fans except evaluating the two rivals.
How did you spend 1,5 day after the match against Korea?
We had recovery procedures, massage to recover better. What can I say about Iran? Of course, we had a theory, but I won't reveal the plans. They have good penalty shoots, we paid attention to it. Iran ranks 35 th in the rating. It has not lost in the last 2 years. But we will base on our game, we play at home. This is why I think everything needs to be fine. Our country will never have a good attitude to football players. As far as it is known, everybody is good at two things – politics and football. But the situation improves, it is noticeable. After the match against Mexico at the Confederations Cup, fans started to thank, applauded. There were more positive comments, people say nice things in the street. And all the guys notice it.