DOHA: A simmering spat between the Qatar and Iran coaches broke out into the open on Wednesday ratcheting up tensions 24 hours ahead of a crucial World Cup qualifier.
Jorge Fossati and Carlos Queiroz clashed over alleged comments made by the former Real Madrid coach ahead of the qualifier in Tehran last September which saw Iran win 2-0 with goals in the 94th and 96th minutes.
There were also angry clashes after the final whistle between players and officials.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Fossati, who was not Qatar’s coach at the time, said the incidents happened because of a bad atmosphere surrounding the match for which he directly blamed Queiroz, who had apparently questioned why Qatar had so many foreign-born players.
“The atmosphere was created before the game… and this bad atmosphere was created for my colleague by Mr Queiroz,” said Fossati, a Uruguayan, drafted in after Qatar lost their first two games in the current final round of qualifying.
“Because he talked about Qatar, he talked about (the) Qatar federation decision and from my point of view this is not his issue, this is not his right.”
Comparing Qatar’s recruitment to that of Queiroz’s Portugal in using foreign-born players, Fossati added: “Portugal used a few players that were not born in Portugal and I never heard Mr Queiroz talking bad about the federation in Portugal.”
In response, Queiroz initially brushed off his rival’s remarks, denying he had said anything about Qatar’s selection policy.
“My comments are very simple because Fossati with the experience that he has should know that he should not trust everything that he reads in the press.
“Unless he is not the coach with the experience that we believe he is, when he put in my mouth comments that I didn’t do, what can I say?”
But the 64-year-old, who was also assistant coach at Manchester United, was unable to leave the matter alone.
Just before leaving the press conference he said he had a “comment” for “Mr Fossati”.
“The comments that he should repeat in Qatar that I said, it is when I praise the Qatar nation for the fact that they brought the World Cup competition 2022 to Asia.
“I want to say thank you to the Qatari leaders for everything they have been doing for the game.”
Thursday’s game already threatened to be a tense affair without the added flavour of a touchline personality clash.
Iran head Group A with 11 points from five games, in one of the two automatic qualifying spots for Russia 2018, and yet to concede a goal.
Qatar, desperate to qualify for Russia, have just four points from their five games, leaving them six behind second-placed South Korea.
In third place are Uzbekistan with nine points. The team which finishes third could end up in a play-off spot for Russia.
Qatar play Uzbekistan in Tashkent on March 28.