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For Iran coach Carlos Queiroz, playing against U.S. will have special meaning

Carlos Queiroz once spent a year trying to fix U.S. soccer. On Monday, as coach of the Iranian national team, he’s going to try to beat the Americans.

“He took maybe a year to analyze U.S. soccer, analyze youth development in U.S. Soccer,” current American coach Gregg Berhalter. “I remember when I was with the national team in ’98, he was around observing.”

At the end of that year, Queiroz turned in a 113-page report that was supposed to be a blueprint on how to get the U.S. to a World Cup final by 2010. A dozen years later, Berhalter is simply hoping to get his team out of the group stage.

To do that he’ll have to beat Queiroz, who is coaching Iran in the tournament for a third time, in a group-stage final that will see only one team advance to the next round.

Queiroz, 69, has coached for a dozen teams in 10 countries, from European giants Real Madrid and Manchester United to Japanese minnow Nagoya Grampus Eight. Iran is the only place he’s stayed for more than 2 ½ years.

On Monday, he reflected positively on his short stint with the MetroStars in MLS’ first season and on his year diagnosing the failures of U.S. Soccer.

⚽ 2022 Qatar World Cup

“I had the opportunity to work for MLS at the beginning of MLS, help football in the United States grow up,” he said. “I also worked with the U.S. soccer national team. So being part of this great family of football, the United Nations of football, is an honor and a privilege. As a compliment to the U.S. national team, after those first two games, I can [sum up] in one word the profile of the team — they jumped from soccer to football.”

Coaching against the U.S. in a World Cup then is “particularly special,” Queiroz said.

The brush with nostalgia didn’t last long, however.

“This is not about yesterday. This is about tomorrow. Let’s try to do our best,” he said, noting that a win or tie would get Iran to the second round for the first time since 1978. “For us, it’s more special than for them.”

Iran stumbled through a 6-2 loss to England in its opener, a game in which it lost goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand to an injury in the 20th minute. In the second game Beiranvand’s backup, Hossein Hosseini, pitched a shutout, allowing Iran to win on two goals late in second-half stoppage time to beat Wales.

Iran's head coach Carlos Queiroz watches during the World Cup group B match between England and Iran.

Iran’s head coach Carlos Queiroz watches during the World Cup group B match between England and Iran in Doha, Qatar, on Nov. 21.

(Abbie Parr / Associated Press)

That has Iran on the edge of history, which left the Portuguese coach in a reflective mood as Iranian reporters badgered him to say something critical of the U.S.

“If after 42 years in this game as a coach, I still believed that I could win games with those mental games, I learned nothing about the game,” he said. “Our mission here is to create entertainment and at least during 90 minutes make the people happy.”

Added Berhalter: “I’m looking forward to meeting him. I never actually said hi to him. It would be nice to say hi to him before the game.”

Fan protests on field

A fan ran onto the field during the Portugal-Uruguay match Monday at Lusail Stadium carrying a rainbow flag while wearing a blue Superman T-shirt that read, “Save Ukraine.” Security officials ran down the pitch invader and escorted him off through a tunnel.

During the tournament’s first week, seven European teams were told they would be sanctioned if they wore multicolored “One Love” armbands during their World Cup matches. Fans also complained they weren’t allowed to bring items with rainbow colors, a symbol of LGBTQ rights, into the stadiums of the conservative Islamic emirate.

Mexico-Argentina ratings record

Telemundo and the streaming services of Telemundo and Peacock averaged 8.9 million viewers Saturday for the Argentina-Mexico game, which the network says is the largest Spanish-language audience ever for a group-stage match.

Telemundo drew 4.6 million viewers Friday for the U.S.-England match that , combined with the 15.4 million who watched in English on Fox, brings the overall U.S. audience for that game to nearly 20 million.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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