Melbourne - Retaining master coach Carlos Queiroz was not only a boon for Iran's national soccer team but a coup for the game in the Middle Eastern nation, according to midfielder Ashkan Dejagah.
Former Portugal and Real Madrid manager Queiroz will guide his under-prepared but highly fancied side into the Asian Cup finals in Australia, seeking to harness the team spirit that won admiration at the World Cup last year.
Getting Queiroz to commit was tortuous, with the coach declaring his relationship with Iranian soccer authorities a "one-sided marriage" when he announced he would step down after the tournament in Brazil.
In September, he put pen to paper to the applause of most Iranian soccer fans and declared his team had hopes of winning "a medal" at the Asian Cup.
"It was really, really important he re-signed," Dejagah, one of the team's highest-profile players, told Reuters in an interview before training in Melbourne.
"Not just for us but really important for the country as well, for the young players because he is a really good coach and I think he can help the team a lot.
"We had the whole world (watching) at the World Cup and we have a good spirit together. Carlos knows what to do.
"He's worked for a lot of big teams, he's worked with stars. So I'm really proud to be a player for him.
"I think it's the same with the other players, I think we can learn a lot from him and will continue to."
Lack of friendlies
The 61-year-old Queiroz has worked with Iran since 2011, turning an outfit short of world class talent into a highly disciplined, defensive unit that held Argentina at the World Cup until an outstanding stoppage time winner by Lionel Messi.
The delay in his signing cramped Iran's preparations, which have also suffered from a lack of friendly matches in the lead-up to the tournament where they will play Group C opponents Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
In a regime pressured by political and economic sanctions, Iranian authorities have struggled to find willing opponents for a team who have played just two matches, a 1-0 win over South Korea and Sunday's 1-0 warmup victory over Gulf neighbours Iraq.
Other Asian Cup finalists have played six friendlies.
Queiroz lamented in an interview with Australia's SBS broadcaster on Tuesday that his team, the highest-ranked in the tournament at 51 in the world, was the worst prepared of all the finalists.
Dejagah, 28, who switched from English Championship side Fulham to play in Qatar last year, said it was no exaggeration.
"We've played just one friendly game to now," he said. "This is very important to the teams to have friendly games and have good camps. I don't know. I was also surprised. Why just one friendly game, but it's like that.
"If you see the other teams like Qatar, Emirates, they've had a lot of friendly games, I think 16 or something. But the team is ready, we work hard."