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Al Mutawa wants Kuwait to return to Asian elite

Erbil: Kuwaiti stalwart Bader Al Mutawa hopes his side’s 2019 WAFF Championship campaign will be the first step on the road back to the top table of Asian football, after they began their campaign with a 2-1 win against Saudi Arabia on Sunday.

Romeo Jozak’s side made what most would consider a dream start to life in Erbil, recovering from the concession of an early Rabee Sufyani goal to beat a youthful Saudi side, with Faisal Ajab emerging as the matchwinner.

The win was Kuwait’s first against a national team in 2019, and first outside of their homeland since 2015 after they spent nearly two years out of the international game.

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Now 34-years-old, and in the 17th year of a national team career of 169 caps, Al Mutawa hopes the tournament in Iraq is the first step of a journey which will see the one-time Asian champions repeat their lofty achievements of the past.

“The three points were very important,” said the highly decorated forward.

“As everyone knows that team was away from international competitions for a long time. It’s true that we played some friendly matches in the last few months, but it is not like an official competition.

"We want, from this tournament, to make a new start for Kuwait national team, so it returns back to its position among Asia's elite teams. This is why we wanted to have a good start here."

Kuwait prepared for the 2019 WAFF Championship with a tour of England, playing against club opponents from well down the football pyramid, including the little-known Hungerford Town and Maidenhead United.

Those matches were part of a long-term plan which will culminate in 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Qualifiers against the likes of Australia and Jordan later this year, with the WAFF Championship also playing a crucial role, according to Al Mutawa.

"The match was difficult (against Saudi Arabia), especially as everyone knows we are preparing the team for the Asian Qualifiers. We came here (to Iraq) to prepare this team,” explained the 2006 AFC Player of the Year runner-up.

"The Saudi team is not easy, and they produced a good match, but our start was really good, and our players performed their best.

“We hope to be back among Asia’s big teams."

Kuwait’s WAFF Championship campaign continues on Wednesday against Jordan, who they will also meet in an Asian Qualifier in October, with Australia, Nepal and Chinese Taipei rounding out the group.

Photos: Kuwait Football Association

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