(allAfrica) – Canny Iranian coach Carlos Queiroz won a tactical battle against Nigeria’s Stephen Keshi when his underdog Middle East combination held Africa’s much-vaunted Super Eagles to a goalless draw in a World Cup game in Curitiba, Brazil, on Monday night.
Neither Queiroz, who occupied the post of coach of South Africa’s national team for two years at the turn of the century, nor Keshi, a former Nigerian captain, had openly proclaimed a desire to take over at the helm of Bafana from deposed coach Gordon Igesund.
Widespread speculation had placed them at the top of the list, which the SA Football Association (Safa) were considering, for what had become known as a hoodoo position as a result of no coach holding onto the post for any length of time since the country’s re-acceptance by Fifa into international competition in 1994.
Queiroz hugged Keshi warmly when the proceedings in Curitiba were over, after his strategy of utilising two rows of four basically defensive players had strangled the life out of a disappointing Nigerian combination.
A pragmatic Queiroz later explained that soccer tactics were determined on circumstances and the relative strength of the opposition.
“We played Nigeria, who have a lot of gifted individual players, in the best way we considered under the circumstances,” Queiroz said.
“Against other teams, it could be different. But we must be realistic while knowing our strengths and weaknesses and performing accordingly.”
Queiroz was already considered the preferred candidate for the Bafana coaching post. This after holding several meetings with Safa president Danny Jordaan, who was largely instrumental in the Portuguese mentor coming to South Africa to coach Bafana the last time around.
And the fact that Queiroz brought his entire Iranian squad to South Africa to engage in a pre-World Cup period of training, did nothing to diminish the view that he was also heading back to South Africa on a more permanent basis at a later stage.
In the meantime, however, both Queiroz and Keshi have brushed aside queries that they could be joining up with Bafana.
“I am here to look after the Iranian team at the World Cup,” Queiroz said. “Nothing else is occupying my mind at this moment. That is all I have to say.”
However, the coach that iconic Alex Ferguson described in his book as the best he had ever worked with when he was his assistant at Manchester United, would have completed his current contract with the Iranian Football Federation after his World Cup commitment was over.
The draw with minnows Iran has jeopardised Nigeria’s aim to become the first African team to reach the World Cup semi-final stage — with tough group games remaining against Argentina and Bosnia endangering their hopes of reaching the second round.