Caltex Socceroos' opponent dossier: Iraq at the Games

Asian football expert John Duerden analyses Iraq's impressive display at the Games with a squad that will form a large part of the Iraqi side set to meet the Caltex Socceroos in Perth on September 1 in a vital World Cup qualifier.

Iraq may have exited the 2016 Rio Olympics at the group stage but there was more to its performance against Denmark, Brazil and South Africa than that.

There were three games and three draws. 

The team leaves undefeated with its head held high while wondering how it is not in the last eight after pummeling South Africa in the final game only to draw 1-1.

With the coach and a number of the players in action due to roll up in Perth on September 1 for the opening game in the final round of qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, there were plenty of points to interest coach Ange Postecoglou.

Perth fans could witness a cracker

There may have been three draws but this is no dour version of the Lions of Mesopotamia.

At times, the football was free-flowing and very easy on the eye even if there was less scope for that kind of thing against Brazil.

Some of the interchanging between midfield and the wings was a delight to watch and the full-backs played their part very well.

The final ball may have been an issue but overall, Iraq passed with pace and intent and fans in Perth are in for a treat.

Goals were hard to come by for Iraq in Rio.

There are goal-scoring issues

If the final ball was lacking so was the composure in front of goal. Iraq had 29 shots in the final game against South Africa. 

Had more than one gone in then the team would now be preparing for the quarter-finals.

While hitting the woodwork three times in a tight must-win game is frustrating for fans, more should have been made of the possession and opportunities that came the team's way.

While old retired warhorse Younis Mahmoud may slow down the team's approach play, some of the Desert Fox's ability to score the big goals when the pressure is equally big would have been very welcome indeed. 

The 2007 Asian Cup hero won't be down under and others have to step up.

Serie A based Ali Adnan is a rising star of the Iraq side.

Coach not afraid to make big decisions

In the second half against South Africa, Iraq was increasingly desperate for a goal, any goal, to go through.

As the team continued to pour forward and look threatening, coach Abdul Ghani Shahad took off two of his biggest stars - and they were big calls. 

Wing-back Ali Adnan has been playing in Serie A for Udinese and has been called by some as 'Asia's Gareth Bale'. 

Then there is talented and versatile winger Ali Husni, recently moved to the Turkish league. Husni's creativity was missed as the stalemate persisted.

As always in football, if the team goes on to win then the coach gets the credit. 

There may be some questions for Shahad to answer ahead of the trip to Australia.

The Iraq starting XI against South Africa in Rio.

There is steel and organisation at the back

While Iraq only managed to find the target once in 270 minutes of football, the flipside is that only once was the backline breached, early in the game against South Africa.

Against Brazil, Iraq held firm and defended with discipline, determination and intelligence. 

The team is blessed when it comes to the left side with Ali Adnan and Dhurgham Ismael among the best in Asia but on the right Alaa Ali Mhawi put in performances, especially against Neymar, that belied his 20 years of age.

Iraq knows it will have to do some defending in Western Australia and the team is capable of doing just that. 

Yaser Kasim

Yaser Kasim will make a difference

One of the stars of the 2015 AFC Asian Cup, the English-based midfielder was not called as one of the over-age stars by the coach but should take the field in Perth.

The 25 year-old has the ability to control the tempo in the middle of the park, something that the talented Iraqi team really missed in Brazil. 

With Kasim, the attacks may not be quite as numerous but they should be deadlier.

Featured News