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The Iranian manager issues a World Cup warning to England ahead of their opener in Doha and scoffs at Croatia’s victory

IRAN chief Dragan Skocic has warned Gareth Southgate: ‘I know we can beat you’

And the Croatian, who will take inspiration from his home country’s World Cup semi-final win over England in 2018, has told his players they will NOT be in the squad for Qatar, even if they don’t think so.

Croatia's Dragan Skocic says his players need to have as much confidence as he does if they can beat the Three Lions

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Croatia’s Dragan Skocic says his players need to have as much confidence as he does if they can beat the Three LionsPhoto credit: Rex
Gareth Southgate's England side were eliminated by Croatia in the semi-finals four years ago

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Gareth Southgate’s England side were eliminated by Croatia in the semi-finals four years agoPhoto credit: AFP

Asia’s leading team meet Southgate’s Three Lions for the first time in the second game of this winter’s World Cup at the Khalifa International Stadium.

England have played and lost there before – a 1-0 defeat by Brazil in a friendly in 2009, when Wayne Rooney was captain for the first time.

And Skocic insists: “There’s no reason why we shouldn’t think we can beat England. Why not?

“Remember I’m Croatian so I know we can beat England.

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“People could watch the game and say Iran’s win over England would be one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history. OK. You can think so. But football is unpredictable.

“We don’t play 15 games, we play one game. And anything can happen in a game.”

Iran is ranked 21st by Fifa, 16 places behind England, and their squad includes ex-Brighton man Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Porto’s Mehdi Taremi.

Skocic added: “Maybe we would have preferred not to play England in the first game but it is the way it is.

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“We are ready to play anytime and with any team.

“Obviously they think they can beat England and qualify.

“You have to believe it. Because I believe it and I’ve already passed it onto the players.

“So you have to believe it. And if they don’t believe it, they’re not for this level of the sport.”

Skocic indicated that Iran’s desire is to make a mark on behalf of its compatriots in a group that also sees the “mother of all battles” against the US.

He said: “Sometimes the Asian teams are underestimated in Europe.

The real advantage we have is a lot of players who will be in their second or third World Cup. It is important that our best players are fit. And I know that we have the spirit of the Iranian people.

Dragan Skocic

“But we have a lot of players who play in Europe and can also fight, with full respect for others, but they can fight to get through this group and qualify.

“People will also try to say that we know the conditions in Qatar better and that will be an advantage.

“But the real advantage we have is that we have a lot of players who will be in their second or third World Cup. We’re number 1 in Asia, but that’s not important.

“It is important that we have our best players fit. And I know that we have the spirit of the Iranian people.

“It means so much to these guys to play for their country.”

https://www.the-sun.com/sport/football/premier-league/5038321/england-iran-manager-dragan-skocic-warns-gareth-southgate/ The Iranian manager issues a World Cup warning to England ahead of their opener in Doha and scoffs at Croatia’s victory

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