Iraq set sights on Qatar

The Asian champions have a new coach at the helm for their World Cup qualifier.

    Adnan Hamad is back for his fifth spell as Iraq
    national football coach [Al Jazeera]
    Iraq, Asian football champions, again find themselves with a new coach ahead of their 2010 World Cup qualifying match against Qatar at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha on Wednesday.

    Adnan Hamad, who first managed Iraq in 2000, has recently returned for his fifth stint as national coach after the reign of Norwegian Egil Olsen lasted just one competitive match – a disappointing 1-1 draw against China in Iraq's opening qualifying match in Dubai last month.

    Olsen, who took over as national coach after Brazilian Jorvan Vieira left the role following Iraq's stunning victory at the Asian Cup in July, had his tenure cut short after he was dismissed by the Iraq FA after just five months in the role.

    To make things harder for Iraq, they will be without key player Nashat Akram who picked up two yellow cards in the match against China and is suspended for the Doha clash.

    Iraq 'ready'

    "It will be a tough match, but we are ready," an Iraq team spokesman said at the team's first training run in Doha on Monday.

    I simply see no reason not to overcome Iraq at home, with all due respect to our opponents

    "The players have been training in Dubai, and we played against Kuwait last week.

    "Qatar are a good team, and it will be difficult in their home stadium."

    The spokesman would not elaborate on why Olsen was sacked, other than to say there were disagreements with the Norwegian and that it "was not working".

    Qatar, ranked 31 places behind their opponents, will hope their home ground advantage counts for something after being on the end of a comprehensive 3-0 thrashing against Australia in Melbourne last month.

    Jorge Fossati, Qatar's Uruguayan coach, will have two of his key attacking players available in striker Sebastian Soria and forward Hussain Yasser, after the pair missed the opening qualifying match through suspension and injury respectively.

    "I am fully satisfied with the present state of things, both mentally and physically, which we worked on soon after the opening defeat to Australia," Fossati told a press conference on Sunday.

    "I simply see no reason not to overcome Iraq at home, with all due respect to our opponents."

    Altitude advantage

    Meanwhile China and Australia, the other two teams in Group 1, meet 1,900 metres above sea level in Kunming.

    Qatar's Hussain Yasser will be a welcome
    addition to the team [Al Jazeera]

    China, who fought well for their impressive draw against Iraq, selected the high altitude venue in the hope that any advantage their more heralded opponents may have will vanish in the thin air.

    Vladimir Petrovic, China's Serbian coach, held a three-week training camp in Kunming with his squad as they look to get out of a form slump in big tournaments after qualifying for their first World Cup in 2002.

    Australia will be missing the services of Everton midfielder Tim Cahill and Liverpool playmaker Harry Kewell after the star duo were both withdrawn through injury.

    Korean clash

    In Group 2, Thailand and Oman will both be aiming for their first win of the third round when they meet at the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok, while Bahrain host Japan in Manama.

    In one of the most highly anticipated matches of the Asian qualifying tournament, North Korea play South Korea in Group 3, a match that Fifa has moved from Pyongyang to Shanghai due to disagreements between the two football federations.

    North Korea, who were set to host their southern neighbours, would not allow the South Korean national anthem to be played, nor their national flag flown, at the stadium in Pyongyang.

    In the other Group 3 clash, Jordan travel to Turkmenistan after both sides suffered opening match defeats.

    Group 4 sees first up winners Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia play in Tashkent, while Lebanon travel to Singapore as both sides look to pick up their first points of the third round.

    Finally in Group 5, a pool consisting of teams all from the Middle East, Iran hope to bounce back against Kuwait after being held to a 0-0 draw by Syria first up, while the UAE look to continue their winning form when they travel to Damascus.

    The third round of the Asian World Cup qualifying process will be completed in June, when each nation will play four matches in the space of three weeks.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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