Tuesday, 18 September 2012, 04:31 GMT
Zico still backed by Iraqi sports officials and fans

Brazilian Coach, Zico, instructs Iraqi national team players during a training session./PRESS PHOTO

The Kurdish Globe
By Zakaria Muhammed

Despite losing to Japan, Iraqi sports officials and fans believe Zico will still be successful in forming a new team

Aiming to defeat Japan at the qualifiers of the FIFA World Cup 2014, the Iraqi football head coach, Zico, tested some new faces at the expense of more experienced footballers.

Zico depended mainly on the players who play in the Iraqi domestic league. The Najaf's goalkeeper, Noor Sabri, played as the main keeper till the last minute of the match. Amjad Radhi from Erbil FC and Hammadi Ahmad from Al-Qua Al-Jawiyah FC formed the attacking line of the team. Each of Husam Kadhim, Ahmad Ibrahim, Waleed Salim, Khaldun Ibrahim, and Waleed Salim who play for the Iraqi local league, were given the chance to play a number of minutes of the game.

Iraq's lineup and way of playing against Japan was totally different from previous matches. Iraq's Captain Younis Mahmud, who used to play from the very beginning in all the matches, only played for a few minutes in the second half.

The Japanese team scored the only goal of the match in the 25th minute through a beautiful header performed by forward Shinji Okazaki. The second half of the match did not witness any change in the result of the match however many easy chances were missed by both teams.

After winning the match, Japan now lead World Cup qualifying Group B by eight points from Iraq that comes third with only two points.

Although Iraq lost the match and is far away from the top positions of its group, Iraqi sports officials and fans support Zico's new style and think that the team still has hope to qualify for the World Cup.

"Iraqi football team is still competing to qualify for the 2014 soccer World Cup in Brazil despite losing to Japan, said Najih Hammud, Iraqi Football Association (IFA) president

Hammud added "Our team showed a fantastic performance level against Japan and we are pretty much satisfied with Zico and support his new style. I believe the fans also trust that as a couch Zico can lead Iraq to qualify for the 204 Brazil World Cup."

When a team wins a match, people usually praise the players. But when a team loses a game, all the blame normally goes to the coach. This has become almost habit. However it seems that Zico is out of this equation.

Ahmad Radhi, former Iraq team star, said that Zico was successful to a great extent in practicing a new strategy of playing, and despite losing to Japan,

"Iraq played one of the best matches. The youths played wonderfully. The result could have been even better if the players hadn't missed the easy chances created in the first half of the match," noted Radhi

Shukir Najim, an Iraqi fan, noted that "The selection of the players for the game run against Japan was very fair". The selection was not randomly done, but was based on the initiatives of the coach who had observed the Iraqi league and watched each club across the country.

In Najim's opinion, even if he does not stay in his post as coach, Zico has instilled belief amongst players with his policy of wider selections and shown that there are alternatives to replace those, who are perceived to play excellently for their clubs while showing a very modest level for their national team.

Some of the best players from the old national team were perceived as carefree footballers who had a negative impact on the team, as seemingly reflected in the outcome of the previous matches. Due to their class, these players will always be needed, but the message is that there are keen and able stand-ins ready to assume their place if they fail to deliver.

"We all agree that Younis Mahmud and Nashat Akaram are excellent players but that doesn't mean that they can't be swapped by other players if they don't stand out in a match. I hope IFA will let Zico practice his thoughts and plans in the field without interfering with his job," said Anwar Muhammad, another Iraqi fan

Muhammad thinks that the current team is great but lacks experience which can be complemented by benefiting from a few experienced players, whilst giving equal chances to all youths and experienced players in turn.