• ‘He is a great lad and one of the new, young generation of coaches in Portugal’
Carlos Queiroz won the Under-20 World Cup with Portugal, lifted the Champions League trophy as an assistant to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United and has twice taken Iran to the World Cup.
The vastly experienced Portuguese coach now stands just one game away from the Africa Cup of Nations final, as he leads Egypt into a last-four tie against hosts Cameroon today.
The 68-year-old, born in Mozambique before the southern African country gained independence from Portugal, had sampled football in most corners of the globe before arriving on the banks of the Nile.
Appointed by Egypt last September, Queiroz is hoping to lead Mohamed Salah and his teammates to what would be the country’s record-extending eighth AFCON crown.
He also has his sights set on taking the Pharaohs to the World Cup in Qatar later this year for what would be their fourth appearance at the finals after 1934, 1990 and 2018.
To do that they will have to beat Senegal in a play-off in March, a match-up that will see Salah and his Liverpool colleague Sadio Mane go head to head.
Before that, though, comes the climax of this Cup of Nations for a man straight out of the renowned Portuguese school of coaching. Queiroz led Portugal to back-to-back FIFA World Youth Championship titles, in 1989 and then again in 1991 with a side featuring the likes of Luis Figo and Rui Costa.
After failing to take Portugal’s senior side to the 1994 World Cup, he set off on his tour of the world, coaching in New York, succeeding Arsene Wenger at Nagoya Grampus Eight in Japan and having a spell in charge of the United Arab Emirates.
He managed South Africa at the 2002 Cup of Nations and qualified them for that year’s World
Instead he went on to enjoy great success at Old Trafford alongside Ferguson, either side of a spell as coach of Real Madrid.
“There are many Portuguese people in football, but I have the best one here in Carlos Queiroz,” Ferguson said in 2005 after Queiroz returned to United.
“It needed someone with a good working capacity, technical knowledge, who could speak in various languages, had a European culture and was able to bridge the different nationalities. Queiroz is the perfect man for the job.”
Queiroz won the 2008 Champions League with Ferguson and then coached at three consecutive World Cups, with Portugal in 2010 followed by taking Iran to the tournaments in Brazil and Russia. He then had a disappointing stint in charge of Colombia before moving into his current role, back on the continent where it all began.
“I spent the best years of my life there,” he once told French newspaper Le Monde of growing up in Mozambique.
“I still consider myself to be a European-African, with split identities.”
Today’s semi-final against Cameroon brings together the two most successful teams in the history of the Cup of Nations, with 12 titles between them. It also sees Queiroz come up against another Portuguese coach, with Toni Conceicao the man in charge of Cameroon.
“He is a great lad and one of the new, young generation of coaches in Portugal,” Queiroz said of Conceicao, who at 60 is still a veteran and spent most of his career working at clubs in Portugal and in Romania.
“He is doing a brilliant job in Cameroon. As a friend and colleague I wish him the best of luck in all the games he is going to play except the next one against us.”