Socceroos full of respect for Iraq
Recent history with Iraq ensures the Socceroos are on high alert as they look to give their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign a badly-needed boost.
Australia head into Tuesday’s (Wednesday AEDT) qualifier in Doha knowing a loss to the Iraqis could put their quest to reach a third successive World Cup in Brazil in serious jeopardy following last month’s shock loss to Jordan.
Coach Holger Osieck’s men are favourites to claim three points at the neutral venue in Qatar but they are keenly aware it won’t be easy against an Iraq side which has proved stubborn opposition for Australia in recent years.
At senior and restricted age level, Australia is yet to defeat Iraq in regulation time in matches played away from home.
The Socceroos did win their last clash at the 2011 Asian Cup, but only after a Harry Kewell goal deep into extra time after the regular period finished scoreless.
The sides split their four clashes prior to that with Iraq prevailing in matches in 2007 and 2008 and Australia winning home games in 2005 and 2008 by a single goal.
“I can’t remember an easy game against Iraq,” said Socceroos midfielder Carl Valeri, whose first encounter with Iraq with the under-23 Olyroos resulted in a 1-0 loss at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
“I can’t remember an easy game in Asia in general, but Iraq are definitely one of the toughest opponents we’ve come across.”
While the Socceroos have been in camp in Doha for several days, Iraq won’t touch down at the Qatari capital until Friday.
Their 30-man is in Sweden preparing with a glamour friendly against 2014 hosts Brazil on Thursday (Friday morning AEDT).
Iraq’s hit out against the five-time world champions will boost the match sharpness of an ageing line up that still boasts some of the country’s most celebrated football talents.
Goalkeeper Noor Sabri, defender Bassim Abbas, midfielders Nashat Akram and Qusay Munir and striker Younis Mahmoud – collectively the spine of the Iraqi line-up – can count close to a staggering 500 international caps between them.
“They’re a very difficult team and they have a lot of games together as a unit,” said midfielder Mile Jedinak, who started in the Asian Cup triumph over Iraq last year.
“They’re almost like a club team in a sense because they have so many caps together, the majority of them.
“We know we did it last time, in a tough game in the Asian Cup.
“I think we deservedly won that game and hopefully more of the same will come next Tuesday.”
The Socceroos are third in their five-team qualification group with five matches still to play.
The top two qualify directly for the Brazil showpiece event – though Japan already look on track for top spot – with the third-placed team needing to win two sudden-death play-offs.
Valeri said the mood within camp in Doha reflected Australia’s situation.
“We’re all pretty focused. It’s not so much about catching up (with each other) this time,” Valeri said.
“We always like to have a laugh but this time it’s more serious.
“We know what’s at stake here.”
Australia vs Iraq
Australia 1 bt Iraq 0 (0-0 after regular time), Doha, 2011
Iraq 1 bt Australia 0, Dubai, 2008
Australia 1 bt Iraq 0, Brisbane, 2008
Iraq 3 bt Australia 1, Bangkok, 2007
Australia 2 bt Iraq 1, Sydney, 2005
Australia 3 bt Iraq 1, Sydney, 1973
Australia 0 drew Iraq 0, Melbourne, 1973
Head to head: Australia 4, Iraq 2, drawn 1© AAP 2013