FIFA U-17 World Cup: Iraq look to survive ‘group of death’ against the odds
Iraq became champions in the 2007 Asia Cup and will look to continue their trend of defying odds in the FIFA U-17 World Cup.fifa u17 world cup 2017 Updated: Sep 30, 2017 16:37 IST
Iraq are the Asian champions and this would be the second time after 2013 that the Lions of Mesopotamia are among the world’s elite football teens.
In Goa last year, Iraq won their maiden Asian under-16 title beating Iran on penalties so even though this seems like the Group of Death, discount them at your peril.
In the 2007 Asian Cup, the strife-torn nation became champions so defying odds isn’t new to the football teams of this country.
KNOW THE COACH: Qahtan Chitheer
Chitheer guided Iraq to their maiden Asian under-16 title last year. Iraq lost all their games in 2013 but as continental champions, Chitheer would seek to make a mark in the competition which returns to Asia after four years.
“The first target was to qualify for the World Cup and after that it was to become champions of Asia,” he had said before last year’s final.
PAST PERFORMANCE: Qualified in 2013 and lost all three games in group league. Did not qualify: 1985-2011.
PASSAGE TO INDIA: Qualified by winning the Asian under-16 championships in 2016
Results of Asian U-16: Bt South Korea 2-1; dw 1-1 with Malaysia; dw 1-1 with Iraq. Quarter-finals: bt Uzbekistan 2-0. Semi-finals: bt Japan 4-2. Final: Bt Iran 4-3 on penalties after normal time ended 0-0.
POSSIBLE GAME CHANGERS
Name: Mohammed Dawood
Club: Al Naft
Why he is special: He scored six goals in the Asian under-16 including a hattrick that had two penalty conversions against Japan in the semi-final when Iraq were playing with 10 men. Scored the winning penalty in the final and was the tournament’s most valuable player and top scorer. Younis Mahmoud, hero of Iraq’s 2007 campaign, is his idol.
Name: Muntadher Mohammed
Club: Not known
Why he is special: It was his equaliser within two minutes of South Korea scoring that gave Iraq hope and belief. He then scored the matchwinner.
Name: Ali Ibadi Jabbar
Club: Air Force Athletic Club
Why he is special: His ability to keep a clean sheet in the final against Iran took the match to the shootout and helped Iraq become Asia champions