Iraq would need to play at their highest level when they meet Iran. The result might pave the way for the team to enter the knockouts of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. Slovenian national Srečko Katanec, the coach of Iraq, named a young squad which has already garnered 600 caps in total will be an added advantage against his notable opponents in the Championships.
Iraq had a splendid run In 2015 where they finished in the fourth position after posting victories over Jordan and Palestine before losing their match against Japan. They knocked out Iran after a thrilling quarter-final game which ended 3-3 after extra-time to defeat them on penalties.
Their game against Iran had taken a toll on the players as they came to a cropper against South Korea to wind up their Asia Cup campaign. Dhurgham Ismail secured his name in the tournament's best eleven while Younis Mahmoud and Ahmed Yasin scored two goals each.
Iraq made their debut in 1972 and went on to win the crown in 2007. With seven draws and 13 victories from 35 matches, Iraq scores a win percentage of 37% along with 15 defeats.
The Lions of Mesopotamia have had an ideal preparation for their AFC campaign winning four of their 12 international matches last year with notable victories against China and Saudi Arabia.
Suffering just two defeats of with one against a formidable Argentinian side and six draws including one against Bolivia have increased the expectations of the West Asian nation.
Right midfielder Ahmed Yasin is the cynosure of all eyes after starting his football career at a young age in Sweden. With 37 goals and 50 assists from 241 appearances after a decade of club football, he has garnered six goals from 59 games for the Iraqi National team. He plies his trade with Qatari side Al-Khor.
Bashar Rasan has enjoyed a meteoric rise to the Iraqi National team after being picked up in the under-17 National team after nine months of club football. He has never looked back since and is right now playing in the Persian Gulf Pro League with Champions Persepolis. The 2018 Iraqi footballer of the year would look to inspire his fans when they take on Vietnam in their opening encounter.
Tuesday, 08 January 2019: Iraq (88) vs Vietnam (100) - Zayed Sports City Stadium, Abu Dhabi at 19:00 IST.
Saturday, 12 January 2019: Iraq (88) vs Yemen (135) - Sharjah Stadium, Sharjah at 19:00 IST.
Wednesday, 16 January 2019: Iraq (88) vs Iran (29) - Al-Maktoum Stadium, Dubai at 21:30 IST.
One can expect a thrilling match between Iraq and Vietnam after the former managed a narrow victory in their head-to-head encounter against the South East Nation. Iraq has won seven of their eight encounters against Yemen with one ending in a draw and is likely to maintain their dominance against the tournament debutants.
Though Iraq has lost twelve of their 22 matches against rivals Iran, they could derive inspiration after getting the better through a solitary goal in their previous meeting in 2017.
They would face Saudi Arabia in their round of sixteen matches hoping they would finish second in Group D.
Average Age: 24 years.
International Caps: 663.
International Goals: 29.
Head Coach: Srečko Katanec (Slovenia).
Goalkeepers: Jalal Hassan (Al-Zawra'a), Mohammed Gassid (captain) (Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya), Mohammed Hameed (Al-Shorta).
Defenders: Ahmad Ibrahim (Al-Arabi), Frans Dhia Putros (Hobro IK), Saad Natiq (Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya), Ali Faez (Al-Kharaitiyat), Ali Adnan (Atalanta), Alaa Ali Mhawi (Al-Shorta), Rebin Sulaka (Al-Khor), Waleed Salim (Al-Shorta).
Midfielders: Safaa Hadi (Al-Zawra'a), Osama Rashid (Santa Clara), Ahmed Yasin (Al-Khor), Humam Tariq (Esteghlal), Bashar Resan (Persepolis), Amjad Attwan (Al-Shorta), Ali Husni (Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya), Hussein Ali (Qatar SC).
Strikers: Mohanad Ali (Al-Shorta), Ayman Hussein (CS Sfaxien), Mohammed Dawood (Al-Naft), Alaa Abbas (Al-Zawra'a).