- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 7, 2015

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) - Iran coach Carlos Queiroz expects his side to advance past the group stage at the Asian Cup despite a lack of preparation.

Queiroz, the former Real Madrid and Portugal coach, has seen his team play only two matches since last year’s World Cup - a 1-0 victory over South Korea in November in Tehran and a win last Sunday over Iraq by the same score in Sydney.

Iran opens its Asian Cup campaign Sunday against Bahrain in Melbourne. The other teams in Group C are the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

“No excuses, no explanations, no sorry, we are just here to play the game,” Queiroz said. “And with the team spirit that we’ve been showing in the other games, we have a good chance.”

Defending champion Japan is considered the tournament favorite, but Iran, Australia and South Korea are expected to contend for the title.

Coming into the tournament, Iran is the top-ranked team in Asia at 51, one better than Japan. South Korea is 66th and Australia 94th.

When asked if Iran was now a better team with the experience of the World Cup behind it, Queiroz said “no.” Iran was eliminated from the group stage in Brazil with just a draw against Nigeria and a pair of losses to Argentina and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

“It’s worse now because we did not have the preparation we should have,” Queiroz said. “When you gamble too much with a bad preparation your chances are not so high as before. Our expectation was to come here with more camps and more games.”

Despite the lack of matches, midfielder Ashkan Dejagah said Iran is prepared.

“The team is ready,” Dejagah said. “We made a good friendly game the last one against Iraq. We won this game and we work hard. We know Bahrain is a good team but we are ready, hopefully also on Sunday.”

In its other group games, Iran plays newly-crowned Gulf Cup champions Qatar on Sept. 15 in Sydney before meeting the United Arab Emirates on Jan. 19 in Brisbane.


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