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Katanec: Iraq fully focused on Asian Qualifiers

Sunday, August 11, 2019
Srecko Katanec-Iraq

Karbala: Iraq boss Srečko Katanec has rejected suggestions his side underperformed in Thursday’s WAFF Championship draw with Syria, saying he is satisfied with their build-up to the forthcoming Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup 2023.

Unbeaten as hosts of the West Asian tournament, Iraq had the opportunity to seal their place in the final with a game in hand, but couldn’t find a way past winless Syria in a goalless stalemate at Karbala Sports City.

While Iraq remain favourites to win the WAFF title on home soil, Katanec believes preparing for the Asian Qualifiers against Islamic Republic of Iran, Bahrain, Hong Kong and Cambodia is a far more pressing concern.

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“This is a bad result? For me, no,” said the well-travelled Slovenian boss.

“For me, this is a friendly match. We will not win every game 5-0 or something like this. This is, for me, a tournament of friendly matches where I have given the chance to new players and, until now, I am satisfied with what I see.

“I said that I don’t care if we win this tournament or not. I want to see one or two players who can help us in the Qualifiers. I’ve seen this, and I’m satisfied. That’s it. Nothing more than that.

“After a few weeks we will play the Qualifiers. I’ll worry about that.”

Iraq require only a draw against Yemen on Sunday to qualify for Wednesday’s final, but despite their handsome tally of seven points from three matches, Katanec’s side have only netted three goals thus far, with Hussein Ali providing two of them.

One of many coaches to use the tournament to experiment with new players, Katanec believes Iraq’s lack of cutting edge in front of goal cost them a win against Syria, but he maintains the match was a valuable exercise for a coach looking further ahead than just this week.

“Syria stayed behind the ball and it was difficult to go through,” he said. “We had some chances; we didn’t score them. That’s it. That’s football.

“I also changed the system a little bit and saw that we can also play in this way, so I am satisfied with what I saw.”

Iraq will face Yemen at Karbala Sports City on Sunday, with the WAFF Championship final to be held at the same venue on Wednesday.

Photos: Iraq Football Association, AFP, AFC

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