With 79 minutes to go and Iraq comfortably leading two goals to nil against a hapless Thailand, few people would have betted against the Lions of Mesopotamia to walk away with all three points. However, as is the case with football, all it took was one lapse of concentration and Senamuang’s men were back in the game. Such was the turnaround in fortune for both teams, Yahya Alwan resorted to sending on an additional defender to secure the draw rather than push forward in the final minutes for a winner.
The game could have turned out very differently considering the circumstances. Iraq started off the first half very brightly and took the lead after a mazing run by Justin Meram, who won the ball at the halfway line and slotted in from distance. The second half saw Iraq extend their lead further after Ali Hosni assisted Younis Mahmoud. A hatful of wasted chances later and some dodgy defending saw the lead thrown away as Iraq capitulated under the first sign of pressure from the opposition.
Such a defeat has left a sour taste in the mouth of many Iraqis, and an appropriate response is needed to get the team back on track. Indonesia, being the fifth participant of Group F, have been suspended by FIFA and as such as are ineligible to compete in the tournament. To prepare for the crucial game against Vietnam, a friendly match has been arranged against Jordan instead, with whom Iraq share an intense rivalry. The last time these two sides met, it took a Yaser Kasim winner to separate the teams in the Asian Cup 2015 group stages. After the controversy surrounding the player and the FA, the issues appear to have settled down and Yaser should be back in time for the Vietnam; hopefully with him getting us another winner too.
Osama Rashid has been doing well in Portugal with SC Farense and looks likely to be given the nod by the manager for the Vietnam game too, who’s looking to strengthen the midfield area. The player missed out on the last round of games after failure by the FA to correctly sort out his paperwork. Another player rumoured to be back in contention for Iraq is Waleed Salim, after the problems between Al Shorta and the FA appear to have been brushed aside, albeit temporarily.
Let’s hope for a big performance against Jordan so we can finally forget the debacle of the previous international break. Players like Ali Adnan, Noor Sabri and Younis Mahmoud have to make the difference after their below-par performances in the last fixture. We’ll have a better idea of what to expect once the squad is announced. It should make for an interesting game regardless.