Champions of Asia
Iraq are waiting with bated breath for their biggest hour on the international stage. Having only appeared in one FIFA World Cup™, at Mexico 1986, Iraq will be considered outsiders on their FIFA Confederations Cup debut. However, with memories of their fairy tale 2007 AFC Asian Cup triumph still fresh, the Iraqis will be hoping to build on this continental success with a creditable performance on the global stage.
Under their inspirational former coach Jorvan Vieira, the unfancied Iraqis took Asia by storm, sweeping past the likes of Australia, Korea Republic en route to the final, where Younis Mahmoud scored the only goal against Saudi Arabia to secure the nation's first-ever continental title.
Yet it was seven years before that memorable triumph, when Iraq's youngsters took gold at the 2000 AFC Youth Championship, that the basis was provided for such achievements. This talented young team that competed at the 2001 FIFA U20 World Cup at Argentina also went on to form the backbone of the Olympic side that surprised the watching world by storming into the last four at Athens 2004.
Unsurprisingly, the core of Iraq's current continent-conquering senior is made up of players who starred in that youth triumph. Their front line is arguably the strongest part of the team, with captain Mahmoud and Emad Mohammed offering a threat to even the toughest opponents. A creative and hard-working midfield is based around on the talents of Nashat Akram, while Bassim Abbas is the rock on which a solid defence has been built. In Bora Milutinovic, to whom the country turned in April, Iraq also boast a coach with massive international experience. Having guided five different teams at FIFA World Cup finals, Milutinovic's CV suggests he has the necessary pedigree to take the team to a level where they can compete against the world's best.
But Iraq can be frustratingly inconsistent. The team failed to progress to Asia's final round of qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, leaving the FIFA Confederations Cup as their sole opportunity to show the rest of the world what they have to offer. Yet if Iraq's majestic run to gold at the proved anything, it is that they are more than capable of causing an upset or two. That fate could befall the world's elite in South Africa if they underestimate the Iraqi challenge.
Coach: Bora Milutinovic
Stars: Younis Mahmoud, Emad Mohammed
|2||MOHAMMED ALI KAREEM|
|15||ALI HUSSEIN REHEMA|
|9||ABDUL WAHHAB ABU AL HAIL|
|11||HAWAR MULLA MOHAMMED|
|23||HALKARD MULLA MOHAMMED|
|17||ALAA ABDUL ZAHRA|