Queiroz slams ref after Argentina loss

BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil -- Carlos Queiroz criticised the performance of referee Milorad Mazic following Iran's 1-0 defeat to Argentina at the 2014 World Cup and claimed that he influenced the game in the same manner as Lionel Messi, who scored a late winner.

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Iran had looked likely to hold on for an unlikely point against one of the favourites to win the tournament outright, but were left empty-handed by Messi's stoppage time strike.

Queiroz accepted Messi's brilliance can change a game at any moment, but was less willing to allow for the Serbian referee's decisions, which he felt altered the outcome of the game.

He said: "I'm not disappointed, I'm very happy with the performance of my players. Two personalities in the game made the difference.

"The first was the referee. There was a clear penalty and all the small details can make the difference. I am telling the truth in a respectable way.

"In these 90 minutes, we competed to honour the game, but the referee was not on the same level. I'm sorry to say that. And the second, of course, was Lionel Messi.

"We were very organised with a lot of discipline. The key point for us was to make the pitch small for Argentina and play together. When we won the ball, we wanted to stretch the field and play forward.

"My wish was to try to win the game. We had to take risks and gamble. But when you have Messi, he can make a difference at any moment.

"I cannot predict how the game finished. What I can guarantee is that we need to rest and recover because it was a difficult game for us.

"We have one day less to recover and I want to keep my players focused and make sure they carry the belief through the rest of the competition.

"Reputation doesn't win games. We competed, but today we had two great teams at different levels: some using genius and some using hard workers to play football.

"I want to thank all of the Iranian supporters. On the field, we did not feel that the stadium was only blue and white."

Argentina manager Alejandro Sabella disagreed that Iran should have won a penalty and claimed he had spoken to Pablo Zabaleta regarding his challenge on Ashkan Dejagah after the game to confirm this.

He said: "I think it wasn't a penalty. I asked Zabaleta after the game and he confirmed he touched the ball. That is all I can say."

Sabella also took the opportunity to underline his side's togetherness after it had been questioned and singled Messi out for praise following reports of a disagreement between the pair.

He added: "Our team is very united. They all like each other. They have a good relationship among themselves. All players who have played today have contributed to this victory. Fortunately, we have a genius in Messi and he is Argentinian."

Queiroz later told ESPN FC that he wants Iran to put the disappointment of defeat behind them and build towards their final group game against Bosnia-Herzegovina, with the Portuguese boss insisting his side are still in with a chance of qualification for the round of 16.

"I'm proud and a little bit frustrated with the result," Queiroz said. "I hoped it would be different, but what can we do? I think we should move forward now and build to win the next game.

"I have no complaints or excuses, only the frustration with a referee that nobody can understand in the world. How could he not give a clear penalty in front of 40 million people watching the game? It is very sad.

"I'm happy with our performance, but I always said that we didn't come here to play a nice losers, we came here to compete and win. I don't want to be nice losers and we deserved a bit more today, but when you have Messi with his genius strike and a referee who didn't make his duties, that makes things difficult.

"The most important thing now is to refresh and focus on the game. To forget what happened here. We can still go through."

Fulham's Ashkan Dejagah also spoke to ESPN FC and explained that it is important Iran still believe in their chances of getting out of the group.

"The manager tried to train us to defend well and I think this is the most important thing. We defended well and we still have a chance to go through.

"We believe we can and go through. I hope we showed the world that Iran can play football, even against teams like Argentina. And we've got a better chance than England or Spain of going through."