Kolkata: A 21-member Iraq national football team arrived here in the early hours of Monday to take part in the FIFA U-17 World Cup starting October 6.
Coached by Iraqi Qahtan Jathir, the team touched down at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport around 1.30 a.m. in the morning and checked into a plush hotel. They will be playing their Group F matches here against England, Chile and Mexico. Iraq take on Mexico in their opener at the revamped Salt Lake Stadium on October 8.
They are expected to train in the evening at Calcutta Cricket and Football Club (CCFC). The Asian champions have only one U-17 World Cup appearance to their name, at UAE in 2013. That experience was not particularly memorable as they finished last in Group F. Iraq 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. After finishing second in Group C, they saw off the challenge of Uzbekistan (2-0) in the quarter-finals, booking their berth in India 2017 in the process. In the last four, the Iraqi colts eliminated Japan, prior to getting the better of Iran on penalties after the showpiece match had ended 0-0.
Coach Jathir made history by guiding his charges to Iraq’s first-ever AFC U-16 Championship success in October 2016. His playing career began at Iraqi club Al Talaba, and also included spells in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, during which time he represented Iraq at the 2000 AFC Asian Cup. Jathir hung up his boots in 2007, and went on to coach Al-Sinaa, Al-Najaf and Al-Shorta.
The squad: Goalkeepers: Ali Ibadi (Air Force Athletic Club), Mustafa Zuhair (Naft Al-Wasat SC), Abdulazeez Ammar (Al Shorta SC) Defenders: Ammar Mohammed (Al Talaba SC), Maytham Jabbar (Al Shola), Muntadher Mohammed (Al Kahraba), Muntadher Abdulsada (Al Hidood), Abdulabbas Ayad (Al Talaba SC), Mohammed Al-Baqer (Al Sina’a FC), Ali Raad (Al Hidood) Midfielders: Habeeb Mohammed (Al Talaba SC), Saif Khalid (Al Talaba SC), 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)