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FIFA U-17 World Cup: Iraq open against Mexico looking to erase past record

Honour to be representing eight Arab nations, says Iraq coach Qahtan Chitheer ahead of their opening FIFA U-17 World Cup Group F clash against ex-champions Mexico.

fifa u17 world cup 2017 Updated: Oct 07, 2017 23:54 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
FIFA U-17 World Cup,2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup,Qahtan Chitheer
Mexico will face Iraq in their first 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup encounter in Kolkata.(HT PHOTO/SAMIR JANA)

The thing about hitting rock bottom is that the only place you can go is up. Iraq will be hoping it would be that way when they start against Mexico in Group F of the FIFA U-17 World Cup here on Sunday night.

They lost 1-3 the only other time the teams met in an under-17 World Cup – Iraq lost all their matches in the 2013 finals -- but as coach Qahtan Chitheer said that was then.

“We won the Asian under-16 championships last year playing some good football and beating teams like Japan and Korea en route. This is a different team, a different competition and we are looking to erase that image of Iraq,” he said, referring to the only other time they played in this competition.

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And for the Lions of Mesopotamia, there is more to this competition that just representing their country. “It is an honour to be representing the eight Arab nations,” said the coach.

Skipper Saif Khalid said playing the same tournament that Neymar Jr and Ronaldinho did and being the sole representative of the Arab world means a lot to his team.

Mexico football team players practising ahead of their FIFA U-17 World Cup encounter. (HT PHOTO/SAMIR JANA)

They will be up against a team that has won this competition twice, have been one of the most successful sides since the Noughties, and were in the second spot behind hosts India in the draw last July.

Mexico, coach Mario Arteaga said, set out on a development plan in 2009. “We got unexpected success next year and then won the 2011 edition of this tournament,” he said.

Rising youth

Now, three generations of players have conflated and we have great hopes of doing well in Russia, said Arteaga. He was referring to the team that won the 2005 and 2011 FIFA U-17 World Cups and the 2012 gold-medal winning Olympic side.

The presence on either side of Mohammed Dawood and Jairo Torres could be an interesting act in the whole play. Both were adjudged players of the tournament in their continental championships.

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“We have a lot of faith in our defenders,” said defender Carlos Robles when asked how much of a threat Dawood posed.

Mexico trained in Spain, where Iraq wanted to but couldn’t. They have also been readying for the past 20 months. That makes for the contestants in Sunday’s second match a study in contrasts.

The odds may favour Mexico but Iraq are not going to roll over. The generation of 2007 seems to have too much of an influence for that to happen.

First Published: Oct 07, 2017 23:45 IST