Iran’s players are free to express themselves at the World Cup, coach Carlos Queiroz said on Tuesday, as the country was gripped by fresh anti-government protests.

Iranians have taken to the streets since September following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after her arrest for allegedly flouting the strict dress code for women.

The country’s players are being watched closely in Qatar for signs that they support the demonstrations.

Queiroz told a press conference: “Everybody has the right to express themselves.”

He compared the situation to players in England taking the knee in anti-racism protests.

“You guys are used to bending your knees in the games. Some people agree, some people don’t agree with that. And Iran is exactly the same,” the Portuguese coach said, according to a video of the press conference.

“It is out of question to think that the Iran national team is suffering any sort of issues like that. The players, they only have one thing in mind, which is to fight for their dream to be in the second round,” Queiroz said.

“They are humble people, they understand one very simple thing. If we are able to do that, they are not only part of history because Iran was six times in the World Cup, they have never been in the second round.

“They don’t want to be only part of history, they want to make history.”

Iran open their group campaign against England on Monday and will also face the United States and Wales.