EXCLUSIVE: Former Iran coach Jalal Talebi DENIES ex-USA boss Steve Sampson’s claim an Iranian govt official took the team’s passports in the locker room at halftime of their famous 2-1 win at the 1998 World Cup
The Iran coach who led his side to a surprise 2-1 win against the United States at the 1998 World Cup has strongly denied claims by the then USA boss that the Iranian government threatened the team at halftime.
Jalal Talebi orchestrated a 2-1 win for Iran in the game in France but his opposite number Steve Sampson has recently claimed Talebi told him an Iranian government official entered the locker room at halftime, took passports off the players and said they wouldn’t get them back if they lost.
It is something that Talebi insists simply did not happen.
‘I don’t know why Mr Sampson has said something after nearly 25 years,’ Talebi told Sportsmail. ‘It isn’t true.
Jalal Talebi, the Iran coach in the 1998 2-1 win over USA, has denied Steve Sampson’s claims an Iranian government official threatened the players at halftime in the 1998 World Cup game
Iran recorded a surprise 2-1 win over USA in the tournament in France – one of the most remarkable results in the history of the World Cup
‘I don’t know who told him that, I don’t know where he got this information from. There is no reason to say it.
‘At halftime in the game, we were winning 1-0. We are almost the winner. We were already playing and we were playing well. I don’t know why he said it, maybe it’s an excuse for the result.
‘I always respect Mr Sampson, he’s a nice guy. I don’t know the reason why he said it but nothing like that happened – not before the game, not during the game and not after.’
Sampson said to TIME magazine that Talebi told him officials entered the locker room and told the team: ‘If they didn’t beat the United States, they were not welcome back into Iran, nor were their families welcome to leave Iran.’
Steve Sampson, the USA coach on the day in France, claimed Talebi told him Iranian government went into the locker room at halftime in the game
The game in France was called ‘The most politically charged World Cup game ever’ by English soccer magazine FourFourTwo and the two teams meet again on Tuesday in the tournament.
For Iran, a draw is enough to advance into the knockout stages of the tournament for the first time in its history.
The USA, meanwhile, needs to win to progress. Anything else and they are out of the competition altogether.