Iraq boss Srečko Katanec has surprised Iraqi football fans by naming a 24-man squad including three new faces for the upcoming World Cup/Asian Cup qualifying matches against Iran and Bahrain.
Veterans Justin Meram and Ahmed Yasin have been dropped from the squad, while Jiloan Hamad also misses out despite having made his long-awaited debut against Hong Kong last month. Osama Rashid, who recently scored his first goal of the new Liga Portugal season, is another experienced player who fails to make the cut, while Al-Zawraa’s Hussein Ali is still absent through injury.
Katanec has instead decided to give some exciting midfielders from the Iraqi League a chance, including Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya’s tricky winger Sherif Abdul-Kadhim, Al-Zawraa teenager Mohammed Ridha and Naft Maysan’s ever-impressive Hassan Hamoud, who recently netted against defending champions Al-Shorta in his side’s last game.
It is certainly a bold move from the Slovenian coach, who regularly attends Iraqi League games in search of talented new players, and it is a decision that will divide opinion across the nation. Many will be pleased to see high-performing league players given a chance, but with these two home games being without doubt Iraq’s two most important during this stage of qualifying against their direct competitors, many others will feel that it is not the right time to drop important players like Meram and Yasin who have much greater international experience.
Winning the group or finishing as one of the four best second-placed teams will secure qualification for the next round of World Cup qualifiers and seal a place in the 2023 Asian Cup.
Jalal Hassan (Al-Zawraa)
Mohammed Hameed (Al-Shorta)
Fahad Talib (Al-Zawraa)
Ali Adnan (Vancouver Whitecaps, Canada)
Dhurgham Ismail (Al-Shorta)
Ahmed Ibrahim (Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya)
Saad Natiq (Al-Shorta)
Ali Faez (Al-Shorta)
Rebin Sulaka (Radnički Niš, Serbia)
Maitham Jabbar (Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya)
Alaa Mhawi (Al-Shorta)
Mustafa Mohammed (Al-Zawraa)
Ibrahim Bayesh (Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya)
Hassan Hamoud (Naft Maysan)
Amjad Attwan (Al-Shorta)
Safaa Hadi (Al-Shorta)
Bashar Resan (Persepolis, Iran)
Mohammed Qasim (Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya)
Mohammed Ridha (Al-Zawraa)
Humam Tariq (Ismaily, Egypt)
Sherif Abdul-Kadhim (Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya)
Mohanad Ali (Al-Duhail, Qatar)
Alaa Abbas (Al-Zawraa)
Alaa Abdul-Zahra (Al-Shorta)