The Iraqi Premier League finally returned last month and we’ve had four rounds of entertainment thus far, filled with goals, moments and talking points. Today, we’re taking a look at five uncapped players whose outstanding league performances this season may see them force a way into Srečko Katanec’s Iraq plans very soon.
Hussein Mohsen has made the right-back spot his own at Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya, providing both defensive stability and an attacking threat. He notched an assist for Hammadi Ahmed in Matchweek 1 and followed it with another assist in Matchweek 2, crossing in beautifully for Aymen Hussein. He is composed with the ball at his feet and has looked comfortable in the Falcons’ back four. Right-back has long been a weakness for Iraq with Alaa Mhawi and Waleed Salem the only regular candidates for the position so Katanec may have an eye on bringing Hussein into the set-up.
A player who has already shone for his nation when representing the Olympic team, Mohammed Mezher is proving to be the real deal following his loan move to league holders Al-Shorta. He has formed a well-balanced partnership with veteran Saad Abdul-Amir in their midfield, with Saad’s more defensive style allowing Mohammed the space to venture forward and be involved in attacks. Alongside Mazin Fayyadh, he has been a standout performer in both the league and AFC Champions League and it seems to be only a matter of time before he is handed his international debut.
One of the league’s most technically gifted players, Bassam Shakir’s combination of close ball control, dribbling and playmaking ability has seen him make a name for himself at Al-Naft. He can often be found using flicks, tricks and clever skills to get himself out of tight situations, but his main strength comes with his passing and vision as he frequently picks out players and creates opportunities. He is also a goalscoring threat and recently scored an injury-time equaliser against Amanat Baghdad. At just 19 years old, Bassam is certainly one to watch out for.
This attacking midfielder first raised eyebrows back in September with a dominant performance against Al-Shorta, where he scored by shrugging off Ali Faez and smashing the ball past Mohammed Hameed. He has carried on his good form into the restarted league for Al-Hudood with two goals against Naft Al-Junoob. A fighter on the pitch, Hussam is blessed with pace and power as well as a ferocious shot and his attacking style has been likened to Mohanad Ali “Mimi”. His decision-making must be worked on, but that side of his game will hopefully improve with experience.
The driving force behind Al-Najaf’s impressive start to the season, Ali Salal has proven to be a well-rounded attacking player capable of playing up front or behind the striker. He ran the game in their 3-0 win over Al-Sinaat Al-Kahrabaiya, scoring the first two before half-time and showing brilliant vision to assist their third, and also got the match winner against Al-Kahrabaa with a well-taken finish. His performances have been reminiscent of a young Alaa Abdul-Zahra and Katanec will certainly be keeping an eye on Ali’s progress in Najaf.