Iran coach Carlos Queiroz expressed confidence on Saturday that his side possessed the "heart and soul" to end their 39-year wait for a fourth Asian Cup title.
Team Melli take on Bahrain in their Group C opener in Melbourne on Sunday with key defenders Hashem Beikzadeh and Pejman Montazeri ruled out through injury.
But the former Portugal and Real Madrid coach backed Iran to show the strength of character to overcome those setbacks.
“We have big expectations and we’re ready to compete and to fight,” he told reporters after training. “We have big heart, big soul and big mind — and we will be ready for tomorrow. We will treat the Bahrain match like it is the Asian Cup final.”
Potential title contenders Iran certainly defended with heart at last year’s World Cup in Brazil, holding Nigeria to a goalless draw and were only undone by a last-gasp Lionel Messi goal in a 1-0 defeat by Argentina.
Queiroz has gone for a blend of youth and experience at the Asian Cup and the well-travelled Portuguese declined the opportunity to get in his excuses early when offered the chance.
“When I arrived in Iran four years ago there was the situation that when a player leaves or gets injured the whole nation cries for six months,” said the 61-year-old. “But with the work we’ve been doing, we now have more solutions and options to cope with injuries.”
Despite being tipped to challenge for the title, Iran face serious competition from the likes of defending champions Japan and hosts Australia, who laid down a marker with a dominant 4-1 win over Kuwait in the tournament curtain raiser on Friday.
Queiroz claimed he had been too preoccupied with analysing Bahrain to watch the Socceroos.
“I didn’t have time to watch Australia,” he said. “I’m a coach, not a spectator. My duty is to focus on our opponents so we’re dedicating all our energy and focus on Bahrain. If we play Australia later on in the tournament, I’ll sit and watch them.”
Iran’s Asian Cup drought dates back to 1976, when they won the third of three successive titles.