Iran head coach Carlos Queiroz answers to reporters questions during a press conference on the eve of the group B match between Morocco and Iran at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the St. Petersburg Stadium in St. Petersburg, Russia, Thursday, June 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
If there’s an anecdote that sums up what is wrong with football in South Africa, it’s the following: We had a coach who was good enough for Manchester United, Real Madrid and Portugal, but not Bafana Bafana 
 Carlos Queiroz.

And now, after superb work with limited resources at Iran, he engineered that country’s superb, surprise victory over Morocco at Russia 2018; it was just Iran’s second win at a World Cup tournament.

The Queiroz influence was evident: organised and structured, with the Iranians playing to their strengths and not looking to do things they can’t. The strategy was simple yet effective  they frustrated the Moroccans, denied them space and, in the end, their effort and perseverance were rewarded.

But just to go back to Queiroz’s time in SA. He qualified Bafana for the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan, but was then summarily fired before the tournament because the team lost in the quarter-finals of the African Nations Cup in Mali.

Queiroz’s experience at the time was symptomatic of how football in South Africa operates when it wants to get rid of a coach  there were the usual behind-the-scenes shenanigans, with the coach undermined and all sorts of division created in the camp. And soon afterwards, Queiroz was booted.

His coaching ability, though, was never in doubt; he was obviously too far ahead for Bafana at the time. He would go on to do wonders at Man United, coach Real Madrid and the Portugal national team, and at this World Cup we’ve seen first-hand his contribution to Iran’s football.

In fact, if you read Sir Alex Ferguson’s autobiography, you will get an indication of just how highly the United boss admired the Mozambique-born coach’s work.

Ironically, while Queiroz has soared, Bafana are still crawling around, trying to find their way. Imagine where the SA national football side could have been, had we allowed this coach the time and patience to implement his vision.

Portugal v Spain on Friday night. What can I say? Wow, just wow!

For those wondering why football is important, why it is able to evoke such passion from its followers, this game is the answer. Epic, classic and absorbing, with Spain’s tiki-taka passing, Portugal’s threat on the counter, and the technical skill on show was simply breath-taking. The standard of football was unbelievable; it was the ultimate. In terms of setting the bar, this is the highest the sport can go.

And then there was Cristiano Ronaldo. Wow, just wow! What a performance. The Portuguese great may now have scored in the last four World Cups, but the previous three were underwhelming. The entire planet has been waiting for Ronaldo to animate a World Cup, to emulate those legends who had gone before, like Pele, Eusebio, Cruyff, Beckenbauer and Maradona.

That performance on Friday was the one we’ve been patiently anticipating and expecting. It wasn’t just so much the goals, it wasn’t even the delightful free-kick, it was the all-round display, the energy and enthusiasm, and the instinctive, determined leadership that caught the eye.

Ronaldo was as cunning as ever and more importantly, at the age of 33, you’d think that he’d lost some of the pace. Not so, boy was he quick, was he good. I’m in awe.


Weekend Argus

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