Iraq have played out many memorable games against their three main rivals Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait over the years. Here, we pick out the Lions of Mesopotamia’s five greatest and most significant derby wins!
Iraq 7-1 Saudi Arabia – 1 April 1976
Iraq’s first participation in the Arabian Gulf Cup witnessed the true birth of the Iraq-Saudi Arabia rivalry. In only the fourth ever meeting between the sides, Danny McLennan’s Iraq destroyed their opponents 7-1 with a hat-trick from Ali Kadhim and further goals from Kadhim Waal, Sabah Abdul-Jalil, Falah Hassan and Ahmed Subhi. Iraqis still talk about this game today and it is certainly one of the Lions’ greatest ever wins. Iraq would go on to finish runners-up of the tournament behind Kuwait.
Iraq 1-0 Kuwait – 3 December 1982
Iraq vs Kuwait was the Arab world’s greatest rivalry at this time, with the two nations constantly battling it out for regional titles. This game remains one of the most important in the history of the storied rivalry as Iraq played Kuwait in the final of the 1982 Asian Games. Kuwait had beaten Iraq in both the Arabian Gulf Cup final and AFC Asian Cup semi-final in previous years and came into the game as Asian Cup holders, but Iraq were able to take revenge with a 1-0 victory. The game remained deadlocked until the 82nd minute when the legendary Hussein Saeed was played through on goal, comfortably slotting the ball home to give Iraq the gold medal.
Iraq 1-0 Saudi Arabia – 29 July 2007
This was not only Iraq’s greatest derby win but one the greatest achievements in the history of the sport. Against all the odds, Iraq had reached the Asian Cup final for the first time, beating Australia and eliminating South Korea along the way. Saudi Arabia, who Iraq had beaten in the previous Asian Cup, were the favourites but Iraq dominated them from the first whistle to the last, securing the continental crown with an unforgettable header from captain Younis Mahmoud. The Lions dedicated the famous victory to the people of their war-torn homeland and this win will remain in the memories of Iraqis for generations to come.
Iraq 3-3 Iran (7-6 on penalties) – 23 January 2015
Iran were Asia’s top-ranked team in 2015 but Iraq managed to eliminate their rivals from the Asian Cup quarter-finals in one of Asian football’s all-time great matches. Iran took an early lead before Iraq fired back through Ahmed Yasin and then Younis Mahmoud in extra time. Another Iran goal was followed by a Dhurgham Ismail penalty and yet another Iranian equaliser right at the death as the game finished 3-3. A marathon shootout ensued with Younis netting a Panenka before Salam Shakir scored the winning penalty and secured one of Iraq’s biggest derby victories.
Iraq 2-1 Iran – 14 November 2019
A victory that is still fresh in our memories. Iraq were meant to host the World Cup qualifier but it was moved to Amman due to the Iraqi protests. Hundreds of Iraqis had died over the previous month and the postponement of the local league meant that the players were lacking in match fitness, but the Lions were playing for their people and their will to win was stronger than ever. Mohanad Ali scored the opener and honoured the protesters with his celebration, but the score was 1-1 heading into injury time. Amjad Attwan looked to the skies and made Du’a before swinging a corner kick in, with Alaa Abbas heading it home to send millions of Iraqis worldwide into pure jubilation. This win meant a whole lot more than just three points.