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.
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.
Karbala: Hosts Iraq squandered an opportunity to seal their place in the final in a 0-0 draw with Syria, while Yemen kept their hopes alive with a timely win as Group A continued at the 2019 WAFF Championship on Thursday.
Iraq’s scoreless draw prevented them from wrapping up the group with a game in hand, setting what looms as a group-defining clash on Sunday against Yemen, who defeated Lebanon 2-1 to claim their first win in over a year.
Palestine, who did not play on Thursday, also remain in with a chance of reaching the final, while Syria and Lebanon are now eliminated.
Ibrahim looking to deepen Syria’s pool ahead of Asian Qualifiers
Karbala: Fajr Ibrahim wants results at the 2019 WAFF Championship, but the Syrian head coach is also using the tournament as an audition process for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Asian Qualifiers.
Having gone closer than ever to reaching the 2018 FIFA World Cup Finals in Russia, Syria have cause to be optimistic about reaching Qatar, despite a largely disappointing run of results in 2019.
While star Saudi-based attacking duo Omar Al Soma and Omar Khribin were instrumental in the previous campaign, Ibrahim is using the 2019 WAFF Championship to give a number of fringe and home-based players the chance to press their case for selection.
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.
Ould Ali’s Palestine building towards Asian Qualifiers
Karbala: Their bid for a first WAFF Championship title is far from over, but Palestine head coach Noureddine Ould Ali has one eye on his side’s Asian Qualifiers campaign for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023, which begins in September.
A 1-0 opening match win against Yemen in Group A was followed up by a late 2-1 defeat to hosts Iraq on Friday in a mixed start to the regional championship, giving the Palestinians little room for error if they are to advance to the final on August 14.
But even if Palestine’s WAFF Championship tilt ends at the group stage, Ould Ali sees the competition as important preparation for the crucial Asian Qualifiers to come.