Kolkata : Asian champions Iraq arrived in the city today for the upcoming FIFA U-17 World Cup, commencing October 6, back in the tournament after missing the previous edition.
A 21-member Iraq national team coached by Qahtan Jathir and six support staff landed here at 2.15am by a Qatar Airways flight before being escorted to the team hotel by a tight security cover, a local team official said. Iraq will face Mexico in their group F World Cup opener at Saltlake Stadium on October 8.
It will be a test of character for the war-ravaged country, who are placed in a group of death featuring heavyweights Mexico, Chile and England. They would hope to better their last place finish in 2013 when they lost all three of their matches, against Sweden, Mexico and Nigeria, the teams that eventually claimed first, second and third place in the tournament. Iraq emerged victorious from the 2016 AFC U-16 Championship, defeating Iran in the final to become Asian champions for the first time and qualify for the tournament under the guidance of their coach Qahtan.
All eyes will be on 16-year-old Mohammed Dawood who led the turnaround for their historic feat in 2016 after they had failed to find the net in the first two matches. He made a welcome breakthrough against Oman in Iraq’s final group-stage match, and then struck a brace against Uzbekistan in the quarter-finals and a hat-trick versus Japan in the last four to emerge top goalscorer and player of the tournament in the 2016 AFC U-16 Championship.
Iraq squad: Goalkeepers: Ali Ibadi (Air Force Athletic Club), Mustafa Zuhair (Naft Al-Wasat SC), Abdulazeez Ammar (Al Shorta SC). Defenders: Ali Raad, Muntadher Abdulsada (Al Hidood); Abdulabbas Ayad, Ammar Mohammed (Al Talaba SC); Maytham Jabbar (Al Shola), Muntadher Mohammed (Al Kahraba), Mohammed Al-Baqer (Al Sina’a FC). Midfielders: Habeeb Mohammed, Saif Khalid, Mohammed Ridha (Al Talaba SC); Abbas Ali (Al Hussein SC), Bassam Shakir (Al Karkh SC), Mohammed Ali (Al Nagda), Moamel Karim (Al Shorta SC), Ahmed Sartip (Gas Al Shemal). Forwards: Mohammed Dawood (Al Naft SC), Ali Kareem (Baghdad FC), Alaa Adnaan (Al Nagda).