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Katanec excited to lead Iraq 

Baghdad: Newly appointed Iraq head coach Srečko Katanec is eager to get started on charting the team's AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 challenge.

The 55-year-old former Slovenia and Yugoslavia international, who had also previously managed Macedonia, United Arab Emirates and Slovenia, said there would be a transitioning period but he is committed in ensuring Iraq achieve success.

“I am happy and proud to be the new coach of Iraq but there is not going to be a quick solution,” said Katanec, who has replaced Basim Qasim.

“This is going to be a long process and it is going to take time to build the team at all levels. It is an exciting challenge, however, as there is a lot of talent in Iraq and if we can start moving in the right direction, then I am confident that we can have success.”

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The Lions of Mesopotamia missed out on qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia after finishing fifth in the Asian Qualifiers, but easily secured their place for the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019, where Iraq were drawn alongside Islamic Republic of Iran, Vietnam and debutants Yemen in Group D.

In preparation for the Continental showpiece next January, Iraq will play an international friendly with Kuwait on Monday (September 10) and Katanec is eager to see the team in competitive action as he bids to strengthen the squad for the AFC Asian Cup.

“The Kuwait game is a good test for us to see where we are and realise what we have to do at the AFC Asian Cup.

“First, though, I am enjoying seeing the players in training and spending time with them. There are some quality players for me to work with and I am looking forward to the job ahead.

“The AFC Asian Cup is an important tournament as it is also a major step in preparation for qualification for the 2022 FIFA World Cup."

Champions in 2007, Iraq will open their UAE 2019 campaign against Vietnam on January 8 before facing Yemen four days later and Iran on January 16 to complete the group stage.

Photos: AFP

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