The West Asian side have their work cut out against the Qahtani Arabs on Saturday evening.

Having played an absolutely frantic opener, Iraq head into their game against Yemen with qualification in sight. While they displayed an undying spirit to come back twice against Vietnam, Iraq did their own undoing with some harrowing errors.

Ironically, the Lions of Mesopotamia fielded what seemed like a 5-3-2 or a 3-5-2 formation to provide extra cover for their defenders. In spite of such a strict shape, they were sliced open like butter on multiple occasions. To their credit, Vietnam’s skilful attackers could be difficult for anyone to contain. However, the shocking lacklustre defending and lack of tenacity wasn’t something to be expected from Srecko Katenic’s side.

From the first minute, the Iraqi defenders and defensive midfielder Osama Jabber were too nonchalant. They failed to be alert and neutralize Vietnam’s movement through the middle, causing their own doom. The centre-backs and midfielders made very little effort in pressing the Vietnamese in possession and were made to pay for that.

Watch: Iraq committed multiple defensive errors against Vietnam

A comedy of errors caused the opener. Ahmed Ibrahim was tricked onto scurrying off his position, with Phac Van Duc gloating him in midfield, causing a huge game in their defence. This allowed, Frans Dia Haddad and Ali Faez to lose their line, allowing a sleek pass to be played to Nguyen Cong Phuong which was unfortunately put in his own net by Faez, who botched his clearance.

After Iraq rallied back with Mohammed Ali’s equalizer, more defensive trauma undid all the good work from the attackers. Vietnam’s midfield goaded all the Iraqi players onto the left-wing, allowing for a cheeky switch to the right to Nguyen Trong Hoang. The midfielders had acres of space and after being allowed to shoot by Ali Adnan, he powered a shot which was saved well by Jalal Hachim. However, Phuong pounced on the rebound to restore his side’s lead.

The inspired substitution of Humam Faraj turned the game over. The midfielder was at the right place to slot home the equalizer, before playing a part in earning the winning free-kick with his tenancy. It was Faraj whose energy and influential ability lit up Iraq into lodging the come-back. However, Katenic will consider himself lucky for getting away with the win, mostly due to Vietnam’s brittle fitness late on.


The Lions of Mesopotamia need to be defensively better to have a chance of topping Group B. While Yemen, themselves thrashed 5-0 by a ruthless Iran, aren’t the best going forward, they’ll look to press on Iraq’s weak-points. Katenic needs to be better in setting his side up better defensively, with Faez, Adnan and Bashar Resan Bonyan all needing to be better. Maybe a switch to a simple four-man defence can do the trick, with Farej’s energetic ability helping them dominate the midfield.

In reality, Iraq needs to be brave defensively and show aggression. Their defenders were woefully timid against Vietnam, causing all the disarray. Both their defenders and midfield three need to press high up and put in some thumping tackles to rattle Yemen up. The experienced Faez needs to step up his own game and rally his troops into putting in tackles and interceptions in the final third.

Fear is never a good thing to have as defenders. Iraq defence’s cautious approach created a near-disaster the other day and proved why the defenders need to be more assertive. With qualification almost in their grasp, the Lions of Mesopotamia need to put in a complete performance on Saturday to send out warnings to everyone laughing upon their defensive state.