What should have been a routine win turned up to be a near disaster for Iraq as they pulled one back in the dying stages of their World Cup qualifier with Vietnam. The manager fielded a full strength team and still struggled to see any sort of progression following the three nil loss against Jordan last Saturday. The so-called ‘expats’ featured heavily in the team that started their third game of the relatively easy group and yet still looked miles short of what we know they are capable of.
Ahmed Yasin, Justin Meram and Ali Adnan were fielded behind the ever-present Younis Mahmoud, with Yaser Kasim and Saad Abdul Amir occupying the central midfield position. However, the biggest shock in the starting eleven saw Mustafa Nadhim replacing Ahmed Ibrahim in central defence. Salam Shakir, Samih Saeed and Dhurgham Ismail completed the back four, whilst Noor Sabri started in goal.
The match began with one sloppy mistake after another by the experienced Iraqi team, who failed to show their opposition any respect, almost as if they were guaranteed a win against the Far East minnows. Of course, there were plenty of other factors to take into account, such as the extremely long flights that players had to endure on their trip to Vietnam, as well as the appalling pitch surface that they were playing on. Regardless, the manager and his staff should have taken these factors into account when preparing for the game. Passes were sloppy and mistakes aplenty. This continued to be the case until Le Cong Vinh gave Vietnam a much-deserved lead early in the first half. A simple pass, along with shambolic defending from Mustafa Nadhim, ended up with Iraq trailing until the final minutes of the game. The defender was guilty of pushing out of position too late, which resulted in the Vietnam striker having a one-on-one finish against Noor Sabri.
The first half continued in miserable fashion with Iraq creating little and Vietnam passing the ball well. Justin Meram was substituted right before half-time, which was bizarre given his ability to create a chance out of nothing. Although he wasn’t at his best, there were other players far guiltier of wasting chances.
The second half saw underfire right back Samih Saeed make way for established defender Ahmed Ibrahim. Samih has been extremely poor when he has featured and simply does not look good enough for the national team. The sooner Waleed Salim is back, the better. The performance overall continued to be uninspiring, with the midfield being overlooked for large parts of the game and with the ball being lumped route one to Younis Mahmoud. The veteran had a particularly poor game, with him seeing very little of the ball and him providing limited options with his movement. In reality, Yaser Kasim proved to be the only player capable of making things happen, which makes you wonder how the FA thought they could get away with distancing him from that national team. Yaser picked the ball up and run at the defence, something that others failed to do.
Ali Adnan and Ahmed Yasin in particular were disappointments considering their abilities, although jetlag and fatigue may have played a part. Yasin had the best opportunity of the match but his header barely challenged the goalkeeper.
Mohanned Abdul Raheem was brought on as a last resort to try and nick a goal but poor finishing saw him missed two sitters. As Iraq pressed for an equaliser, a headed clearance from a corner landed perfectly for Ali Hosni, a second half substitute, who struck the ball well and nearly scored from 30 yards. The young attacker proving to be a great addition to the team yet again. In the last second of the game, captain Younis Mahmoud was brought down in the box and the referee awarded a penalty, which the striker tucked away with confidence even though he was under tremendous pressure. The result is flattering for a side that looked a shadow of the team we saw in the Asian cup, only some 10 months ago. Things could have turned out to be very different had the penalty not been given and Iraq would be facing their second defeat in less than a week.
Yahya Alwan is already under tremendous pressure by fans and the media to step down from his position as manager. Although he is far from an ideal coach, the thought of having yet another manager being replaced a few months into his tenure leaves you wondering just how poor the planning is from those in charge. A change will mean Iraq now has their sixth manager in less than 12 months – an utter shambles. Having said that, if Radhi Shenaishil is available, it would be a crime not to approach him.
Iraq currently sit second in their group, with five points – two behind leaders Thailand. The next game will be on November 17th, against Chinese Taipei, who are in last place. It will be interesting to see who is in charge by the time the match is being played. One can only hope that the situation will look different, because as things stand, there is no way we will be qualifying for the World Cup, as predicted by Nashat Akram, in our exclusive interview, which shall be posted very soon. Make sure to subscribe via email (on the right) to receive a notification as soon as the article is published. You do not want to miss out on this one – trust me.