The Lions of Mesopotamia kicked off proceedings in the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Rio 2016 by taking on Denmark in an entertaining first game that somehow failed to record any goals. Prior to kick off, Iraq were seen as major underdogs by both pundits and bookies. 90 minutes later and the team in green had left the Estadio Nacional field with their pride intact following a positive performance.
Iraq started the game off in uncertain fashion, as to be expected in any group stage opener. Denmark capitalised on this and took the game to Iraq as they hit the post only two minutes in. However, from that moment on, Iraq dominated the game in its entirety. Only moments later after the Danes had attacked, Sherko Kareem was through on goal but was only able to direct his shot straight at the goalkeeper. The Grasshopper’s midfielder will have been disappointed not to have given Iraq an early lead.
Ali Adnan stole the show in the first half with his dangerous freekicks, which forced the Danish goalkeeper into a series of impressive saves to keep the scores level.
Meanwhile, Mohammed Hameed was able to keep out a strong strike by Casper Nielsen as the Danes looked to counter Iraq’s possession. The goalkeeper displayed a very impressive performance, where he dealt with every aerial threat in superb fashion against a very tall and physical scandinavian side. However, his constant falling and theatrics were irritable at the best of times.
Saad Abdulamir, the team captain, was a major force in midfield and ran the game with a calmness rarely seen with the Iraqi national team. The holding midfielder has taken his game to a whole new level over the past two years and his reputation has grown tremendously as a result. However, he remains an underappreciative figure in the national team by fans and media alike, who fail to see the vital role he plays.
The second half was more of the same as Iraq pressed on to find a winner. Hammadi Ahmed performed poorly and was substituted for Mohanned Abdul-Raheem, who should have won the game at the death but was unable to direct his header across the right side of the post. Again, the cross was supplied by an eager Ali Adnan who stole the headlines. More is required from both experienced strikers if Iraq are to achieve anything this tournament. Then, as the seconds ticked down, Mehdi Kamil also came close with a theatrical bicycle kick that tested the Danish goalkeeper. The other of Iraq’s substitutes, Mehdi had a very impressive run out as he took the game to the Danes by dribbling directly at the defence and wreaking havoc. However, for all of Iraq’s ten chances on goal, the statistic that mattered the most was the scoreline.
A 0-0 score meant Iraq had dropped two valuable points against a side that they dominated entirely. Given that the next game will be against Brazil in Rio, it may be that we will look back at this draw with regret. Ahmed Ibrahim, Sherko Kareem, Hummam Tariq and Attwan were all guilty of being anonymous when their side needed them most. The latter two especially had a disappointing game.
Nonetheless, there were plenty of positives to be taken from the result, especially given how Iraq were able to dominate possession against such a strong side. Ali Adnan may have stolen the show but Saad Abdulamir and Mohammed Hameed were both equally impressive. The draw against Denmark enures Iraq extend their record of never losing their first fixture in the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament.
Iraq will face Brazil in the second round of group stage fixtures, where a point will be the minimum requirement from a tough clash against the host nation.
- Mohammed Hameed
- Hummam Tariq
- Ahmed Ibrahim
- Mustapha Nadhim
- Dhurgham Ismail
- Saad Abdulamir
- Amjad Atwan
- Ali Hosni (66′ Min sub – Mehdi Kamil)
- Ali Adnan
- Sherko Kareem
- Hammadi Ahmed (65′ min sub – Mohanned Abdul-Raheem)
- Fahad Talib
- Saad Natiq
- Ali Faez
- Hawbr Mustafa
- Alaa Ali Mhawi