The 2019 West Asian Football Federation (WAFF) Championship kicked off between Iraq and Lebanon, with the hosts taking all three points following a narrow win thanks to Hussain Ali. Iraq, who are hosting the tournament in Karbala and Erbil, fielded a significantly weaker side that featured mostly players from the domestic and gulf leagues. The likes of Ali Adnan, Osama Rashid, Ahmed Yasin and Frans Putros were all notable absences.
Katanec took the game seriously, where he fielded the strongest side available rather than risking playing fringe players. The team played a compact formation, which saw them offer the opposition little room to create chances. However, this also impeded the number of chances we were able to create going forward.
The game was edgy from the start, where neither side was able to create a clear chance. Both teams were poor in possession of the ball, which resulted in a fairly rigid performance. The only clear chance came curtesy of a fantastic passage of play between Hussain Ali and Alaa Abbas, who came on as a substitute. Hussain Ali picked up the ball from the left flank, played a clever 1-2 with Alaa Abbas, then slotted home a neat finish from close range. It was the only real chance in the game for either side, but fortunately it was enough to win the game for the hosts.
Other than the goal, the only real highlights of the match were the tournament ceremony prior to the game, Iraq’s new White kit made especially for this tournament, as well as a fantastic turnout from the Iraq fans to support the hosts throughout the entire 90 minutes.
It’s another win for Katanec – Iraq will play Palestine next, before finally taking on Yemen. Both games are extremely winnable and anything other than wins against both sides will be seen as disappointing results. Let’s just hope the performances improve alongside the results, as well as Katanec experimenting with the younger players in the squad.