Iraq’s U23 team left Asia stunned with some sublime performances in the AFC U23 Championship qualifiers, sweeping aside Saudi Arabia and Bahrain whilst thrashing Afghanistan 8-0 to secure qualification. Here we take a look at the players who shined, and why we think they deserve to feature more prominently in the senior team.
doubt the Al-Naft hitman was the star player for the U23s, scoring 6 goals over
the 3 games. His pace, strength and physical presence were all too much for opposition
defences to handle. He has also enjoyed an excellent Iraqi Premier League campaign,
scoring 14 goals, the 3rd-highest in the league. However, his temperament is
the one glaring weakness in his game, and this was made evident in the recent match against Saudi Arabia where he received a straight red card for pushing a
player in the face. That type of behaviour could make the difference when Basim
Qasim decides on his final squad for the WCQs, however we think he has just
been too good to leave out.
Having recently made his debut for Iraq against South Korea, his performances for the
U23s will have done his chances of reselection no harm. His versatility makes
him a valuable player, as he is comfortable playing across the defence and in
midfield. Basim Qasim, also manager of Abdul-Ridha’s club Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya,
will have seen first-hand just how well he has been playing and therefore he
can expect to be in the next Iraq squad.
looked a constant threat for Iraq in the wing forward position; his pace and
trickery got him into great positions where he managed to score 1 and assist 2
goals. He has been one of Al-Naft’s best players, chipping in with 5 league goals this season and his recent performances definitely make him a deserved contender
Iraq’s most exciting U23 player, his perfectly-weighted through balls and
crosses provided 4 assists in 2 games. He won the Young Player of the Season
award last year with Al-Zawraa and is having another fantastic season this year,
scoring 7 goals from midfield. He provides qualities that the senior team are
lacking and we’d definitely like to see more of him in the senior team.
His first touch and weight
of pass were exquisite, potentially the most technically gifted of the U23
midfield players. He played a part in many of the attacking moves and his
vision and quality passing are things Iraq have lacked in recent times. Basim
Qasim clearly rates the player as he signed him for Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya this
season. With more playing time at club level, we think Jaffal would be a good
addition to the senior side.
Al-Talaba defender was perhaps Iraq’s most solid defender in the 3 games,
putting in an incredible performance against Saudi Arabia. However, Al-Talaba’s
poor defensive record in the Premier League may count against him when it comes
to senior squad selection. But given his performances for the U23 team, we hope
Burhan Jumaah will get his chance sooner rather than later.
The Al-Shorta goalkeeper made numerous outstanding saves, especially
against Bahrain where he made the difference between winning and losing. Ahmed
Basil has been ever-improving for his club and had a fantastic season, keeping
Mohammed Hameed out of their team and contributing greatly to Al-Shorta’s title
challenge. There is a lot of competition for the GK position, but we think
Ahmed Basil has done enough to be in contention for future squads.