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Yemen anticipating different test against Iraq


Sunday, August 11, 2019
Sami Al Hadi-Yemen

Karbala: Yemen are potentially 90 minutes away from a first ever WAFF Championship final, but head coach Sami Al Hadi warns they will face a unique challenge against host nation Iraq on Sunday.


Al Hadi’s side earned their first win in over year when they beat Lebanon 2-1 on Thursday, taking them to four points in three matches, and within striking distance of group leaders Iraq.

Another win in the final Group A match between the two sides could be enough to give Yemen a rare shot at international silverware, but with Iraq unbeaten in the tournament, and drawing passionate 30,000-plus crowds to every match so far in Karbala, Al Hadi knows his side must be prepared to confront opponents both on and off the pitch.

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"Iraq has a very strong team, and they are playing home in front of their fans who support them strongly,” he said.

“I think the match against Iraq will be different than the other matches, especially with the big crowd in the stadium, which can be a major factor.

“My hope is that we benefit from such matches as we will be playing in the same type of atmosphere during Asian Qualifiers.

"I hope we produce a good match on the final match day, and our hope is to get a positive result and try to make the most of the chances we get during the match."

With the group winners advancing directly to Wednesday’s final, the prospect of becoming WAFF champions is an enticing one for Yemen, whose best finish in the tournament was a semi-final appearance in Jordan nine years ago.

But while any silverware would serve as a welcome boost to the national team, the long-term focus remains on preparing for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Qualifiers.

"We don't have a lot of time before the first match of the Asian Qualifiers against Singapore (in Singapore on September 5),” said Al Hadi.

“After that we will play a strong match against Saudi Arabia (on September 10), so our participation in the WAFF Championship helps the national team a lot, especially because the teams we faced are strong physically, which is very beneficial for our players before the Asian Qualifiers."

Yemen’s win against Lebanon was a long-time coming. It had been nearly a year-and-a-half since they beat Nepal in AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 qualifying to claim their last international success, but goals from Tawfik Emad and Abdulwasea Al Matari helped Al Hadi’s side secure a come-from-behind 2-1 victory.

According to the 62-year-old, now in his fourth stint as national team coach, it was the result of consistent improvement throughout the tournament.

"Our players thankfully managed to get back in the match and score, and get the win at the end,” he recalled. "I think that the match was generally quite strong between the two teams.

“From our side, we used the same approach as the previous matches, and we produced our best match so far through having a strong organised defence and an effective counter attack."

Photos: Iraq Football Association

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