Iraq Eye Historic Knockout Stage Passage
Savouring a dream run, Iraq would fancy a historic pre-quarterfinal berth in the FIFA Under-17 World Cup when they lock horns with heavyweights England in a Group F match on Saturday. Making their second U-17 World Cup appearance, Iraq have been the surprise package of the proverbial ‘group of death’ as they are well placed to advance to the knockout stage following a spirited 1-1 draw against two-time champions Mexico and a 3-0 rout of Latin American giants Chile. England have already sealed a last-16 berth and a draw will be enough for Iraq for a historic knockout berth. A win will make them group toppers.
Mohammed Dawood has been in the centre of their attack scoring three of four Iraqi goals as he’s continuing from where he had left in their historic AFC U-16 Championship triumph around the same time in Goa last year.
The Iraqi No 7 looked a complete striker with his pace and control. His free kick from just outside the box that curled into the net in their win over Chile summed up the Baghdad youngster’s brilliance.
It will be interesting to see how he goes past the English defence led by captain Joel Taibeaudiere, Timothy Eyoma, Marc Guehi and Jonathan Panzo.
The English defence crumbled against a Diego Lainez’s seven-minute brace late in the second half as they survived a scare to outlast Mexcio 3-2 and ensure a pre-quarterfinal berth.
Qahtan Chitheer will look to explore the English fragility as the contest will ultimately boil down to the two teams’ defence and the coach does not want to add pressure on his ace forward Dawood.
“There are other players in the team who are equally good and talented as well. Each player has his own skill. We play as a team and we have been able to achieve success through tough training conditions,” Chitheer said.
With seven goals from two matches, the Young Lions could not have asked for a better start. Precocious Dortmund attacking midfielder Jadon Sancho has showed why he is sought-after with three goals from two matches.
Manchester United’s Alex Gomes, City’s Phil Foden and Rhian Brewster of Liverpool having all scored goals and English attack will look no further.
Sancho is likely to leave for his club after the group stage as Manchester United starlet Alex Gomes, who started from the bench in both their matches, may be given more responsibility.
England coach Cooper said they are not taking it easy even as they have already made the last-16.
“It’s a luxury to qualify after two games. But we are not thinking past the group stage yet. We have to show respect to our next opposition by recovering and putting on a good show again,” Cooper said about Iraq.
England: Curtis Anderson, Josef Bursik, William Crelin; Timothy Eyoma, Joel Latibeaudiere, Marc Guehi, Jonathan Panzo, Lewis Gibson, Steven Sessegnon, Morgan Gibbs White, Tashan Oakley Boothe; Conor Gallagher, Angel Gomes, Nya Kirby, George McEachran; Jadon Sancho, Callum Hudson Odoi, Philip Foden, Emile Smith Rowe, Rhian Brewster, Danny Loader.
Iraq: Ali Ibadi, Mustafa Zuhair, Abdulazeez Ammar; Ali Raad, Muntadher Abdulsada, Abdulabbas Ayad, Ammar Mohammed, Maytham Jabbar, Muntadher Mohammed, Mohammed Al-Baqer; Habeeb Mohammed, Saif Khalid, Mohammed Ridha, Abbas Ali, Bassam Shakir, Mohammed Ali, Moamel Karim, Ahmed Sartip; Mohammed Dawood, Ali Kareem, Alaa Adnaan.