The very mention of the name Iraq, and the first things that come to one’s mind are images of a war ravaged nation, streets full of military convoys, buildings being bombed and marks of terrorism related activities and autocratic rule clear everywhere. One can remotely associate something as contrary or contrasting such as a sport like football with a country experiencing such horrors and going through such turbulent times more than once in recent history. However, at the wake of the Confederation Cup one cannot possibly take Iraq lightly as they have previously proved on more than one occasion that they too have a thing or two hidden in their arsenal which can give real trouble to their opponents.
Iraq soccer team, which is often referred to as the Lions of Mesopotamia, has over the years emerged as one of the strongest football teams from Asian continent. In fact they are the winners of the 2007 edition of the AFC Asian Cup which enabled the team to qualify for the upcoming Confederation Cup giving them entry into Group A with South Africa, Spain and New Zealand. Iraq’s peak of success in international football can be considered to be the phase of 1970s and the 1980s when they first emerged as a major Asian soccer power by qualifying for the Asian Cup in 1972 and 1976, finishing fourth in the later case. They also maintained a respectable performance in the Asian Games by getting the fourth spot in 1978, winning the Gold Medal in 1982, entering the quarter finals in 1986 and winning the silver medal in 2006. They even made it to the FIFA World Cup in 1986 while their best show in the Olympics came in 2004 when they ended up in the fourth position.
The current squad playing for Iraq comprises of the goalkeepers Mohammed Kassid, Alaa Gatea and Sarhang Mohsen, defenders Mohammed Qabel, Salam Shakir, Fareed Majeed, Muayad Khalid, Ous Ibrahim, Essam Yassin and Khaldoun Ibrahim, the midfielders Hussein Abdul Wahed, Halgurd Mulla Mohammed, Khalid Mushir, Aqeel Mohammed, Herdi Noor Al Din, Ahmad Ayad, Nadim Karim and Safwan Abdul Ghani along with the strikers Mustafa Karim, Luay Salah, Muslim Mubarak, Alaa Abdul Zahra and Amjad Kalaf. The team will most probably be lead by Luay Salah while Radhi Shenaishil will be taking up the coaching responsibilities. Taking a careful glance at the squad easily reveals that this will be one of the few teams in the tournament which will invest heavily on the abilities of the young blood which is present in plenty in the team. The average age of an Iraqi footballer from this squad is either in late teens or early twenties. According to the most experts of the game, while one can definitely expect some display of energy on the field, Iraq may have serious trouble to handle pressure situations in matches due to the apparent lack of experience.