Milutinovic sets title target
© AFP

Bora Milutinovic, who has made a career of engineering football shocks by taking five different countries to the FIFA World Cup™, believes his Iraq side can win the FIFA Confederations Cup in June.

"My dream is always to be the champion," Milutinovic said. "When I think back to the atmosphere of 2007. Iraqis were never as happy as they were when beat Saudi Arabia (in the AFC Asian Cup final). I will be the happiest man in the world if we can repeat that."

Milutinovic, who took over as coach in April, has a contract which takes him up to the FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa from 14 to 28 June. Iraq were shock Asian Cup winners in 2007.

Despite failing to qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa, Milutinovic is convinced that he can bring success back to the Iraqi team. "We have to be aware that this is an enormous event for Iraq. It's a rare chance to shine in the sports world," said the 64-year-old Serbian, aware that Iraq haven't qualified for the FIFA World Cup since 1986.

We are the champions of Asia. Why can't we be the equal of the champions of other continents?
Bora Milutinovic

In his widely-travelled career, Milutinovic has taken Mexico to the FIFA World Cup quarter-finals in 1986, before also guiding Costa Rica (1990), USA (1994) and Nigeria (1998) to the second round. He remains proud that he was in charge of the China side which played in its first World Cup in 2002.

Although there isn't a great deal of time for him to wave his magic wand with Iraq before the FIFA Confederations Cup gets underway, he points out that he took over the Costa Rica team just 17 days before the 1990 FIFA World Cup began in Italy.

"We don't have a lot of time, but we'll use it well. It'll be enough," said Milutinovic, who will oversee his first friendly on 9 June against Poland in Cape Town with another lined up against African champions Egypt at a date to be confirmed. "The best-prepared team isn't the one which plays the most matches," he added. "It is the one which trains the best."

Training sessions for the Iraqi squad will take place in Jordan or in Qatar, where many of Iraq's top players make a lucrative living competing in the domestic league and where Milutinovic lives when he is not in Mexico.

At the FIFA Confederations Cup, Iraq will face hosts South Africa, European champions Spain and New Zealand. If they qualify for the next round, they could meet Brazil or world champions Italy.

"We are the champions of Asia," said Milutinovic. "Why can't we be the equal of the champions of other continents? We just have to believe in ourselves."