After a fortunate progression into the final round of qualification for the World Cup 2018, Iraq have been awarded with an extremely challenging draw. It is expected Radhi Shenaishil will lead the squad into the campaign that will see them facing the elite of Asian football.
The draw, held in Kuala Lumpur, saw twelve teams separate into two different groups, from which the top two ranking sides will automatically qualify for the World Cup. The two countries finishing in third place will face each other in a head-to-head match, with the winner playing a CONCACAF team for the remaining place at Russia 2018.
Iraq were placed in Group 2, which concluded as the following:
- Saudi Arabia
Group A saw the remaining teams pegged together, consisting of Iran, South Korea, Uzbekistan, China, Qatar and Syria.
Both groups look tough, but that is to be expected at this stage in the competition. Iraq has usually given Australia a run for their money when faced against the current Asian Cup holders. Japan however have brushed the Lions of Mesopotamia away with relative ease. U.A.E are an improving side in Asian football, with their side playing fast attacking football. The last fixture between Iraq and U.A.E was during the Asian Cup 2015, with Iraq losing 3-2. The remaining two sides should both be winnable matches.
The group is no doubt a tough challenge but Iraq are an excellent team that has been in awful form for a number of reasons. No doubt, the issues faced by the current side will continue due to the negligence and corruption within the Iraqi FA. However, there is hope that Iraq will find a way to fight on, as they are known to do.