Around the same time, in 1986, Iraq made their FIFA World Cup ™ debut with the late leader Ahmed Radi, scorer of the only goal. Mesopotamian Lions during this edition, against the Belgian Jean-Marie Pfaff. Thirty-five years after this first participation, the new Iraqi generation aspires to put an end to this long crossing of the desert.
With two matchdays remaining in the second round, Iraq occupy first place in Group C of the Asian qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar ™. Srečko Katanec’s team will be opposed to Hong Kong on June 11, then on Tuesday June 15, they will cross swords with IR Iran, decisive for direct access to the third round.
The Slovenian technician will be able to count on firepower fueled by striker Mohanad Ali, but also on an iron defense, the most robust in the group, with only three goals conceded in six days. “We are the leaders of the group. We have a good chance of securing our qualification over the next two matches,” announced defender Saad Natiq, who played five consecutive days in these qualifications before missing the match against Cambodia due to ‘a suspension. “We had a very good preparation, with an internship and two friendlies. The team is currently at its best. I hope we can play at a good level during these two matches.”
According to Natiq, the coach played a key role in emphasizing the team’s defensive system. “This allowed us to have the best defense in the group today. We want to continue on this path to maintain this level,” said the 27-year-old.
A common experience and experience
Alongside many of his current teammates, Saad Natiq reached the semi-finals of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey in 2013. Iraq lost to Uruguay, before losing the third-place game to Ghana. Three years later, the defender played in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. He played two matches there and gained valuable experience, notably in the 0-0 draw against Neymar’s Brazil in the group stage.
“It was a great experience to take fourth place with the U-20s at the World Cup under Hakeem Shakir. We also did well at the Olympics, although we couldn’t go to- beyond the group stage, ”he recalls. “This great adventure has been very beneficial to us. These two competitions have given us plenty of experience in order to compete in a new World Cup.”
According to Natiq, the good results obtained by Mesopotamian Lions in recent years are mainly due to the understanding between players who have played together since the U-20s. “The majority of us have been playing together since 2013. We started in U-20, then we continued with the Olympic selection. All of this has contributed to the symbiosis that exists between the players and which brings a plus to the team “, he assures. “We hope to find a great international competition, but to qualify for Qatar 2022, the current generation must provide all its support and solidarity. This is the condition to achieve our goal and face the best teams on the planet”, concludes Natiq, who would not be against a return to Qatar, which he had discovered under the colors of Al Arabi.