KAZAN, Russia (Reuters) - Iran coach Carlos Queiroz said he could offer no magic potion to help his side cope with the might of Spain but promised his players would fight, fight and fight again when they meet the former world champions on Wednesday.
The Iranians top Group B after beating Morocco in their World Cup opener but it is fair to say the hard work really starts in Kazan, where they take on the Spanish before heading on to Saransk to play European champions Portugal.
The 65-year-old Portuguese polyglot was very happy to concede the favourites tag to Fernando Hierro’s team with its “many, many great players”, but still wanted his side to be positive.
“I have to say, if there was a magic potion to stop Spain that we could buy for a million dollars we would buy it,” he told a news conference on the eve of the clash.
“What we can do is keep our determination and our capacity to endure suffering.
“When we defend, which we will have to for many moments, we will fight collectively. What we cannot do is to defend and then surrender, that would be dishonest.
“When we have the ball, we must try to win. What happens then is up to the football gods.”
Queiroz reprised his complaints about how U.S. sanctions had impacted on his team’s preparations - robbing them of two warm-up matches and a kit deal - but said they would never use the issue as a post-match excuse.
“Whatever happens, no excuses, no explanations, we just play for the shirt,” he added.
“In my team nobody points fingers at each other, we take our own responsibilities. When you finish the game, you must be sure you can hold your head up in the dressing room, you must do the shirt proud. Tomorrow will be no different.”
Spain drew 3-3 with Portugal in their Group B opener only two days after coach Julen Lopetegui had been sacked and replaced with Hierro, who Queiroz said he had once tried to sign as a player.
“I admire him so much,” he said. “He’s a very skilled person and I think he’s the right person to unite the Spain team, which so easily could have become divided.
“We saw that against Portugal, they played like a team united.”
Queiroz rued the loss of central defender Rouzbeh Cheshmi for the tournament to a training ground incident but reiterated that his players would only draw more strength from adversity.
“The harder it gets, the harder my players fight, they will give everything,” the former Real Madrid coach said.
“We have to play to win and we have to play our best game ever.”
Editing by Christian Radnedge