LONDON: Iraq's coach Basim Qasim has named a 22-man squad for the friendly match against Saudi Arabia next week, calling up three new faces and handing a return to English-based midfielder Yaser Kasim for the first time in more than a year.
While Saudi Arabia head coach Juan Antonio Pizzi was afforded the luxury of naming his side for the match on Feb. 28 last month, Qasim has had to delay his selection for a couple of weeks. Several of the clubs had not replied as to whether players would be released for the friendly, which falls outside the FIFA International Match Calendar, and the Iraq FA did not want a repeat of the situation prior to the 23rd Gulf Cup, where the players had to turn down the call-ups on the eve of the tournament. Ahmed Yasin, of AIK, Ostersunds FK’s captain Brwa Nouri and Udinese's Ali Adnan will all miss out as they will not be released by their clubs.
The bulk of the squad therefore comes from Al-Shurta, who are second in the Iraqi Premier League. They have seven players in the squad, including defender Karrar Mohammed, who is back in the fold for the first time since 2016. Al-Naft's Bayar Abu-Bakir, who scored on his debut two years ago, is also back after a lengthy absence.
The newcomers are Al-Zawraa defender Mustafa Mohammed, a former U-17 international, Al-Talaba’s Arkan Ammar, who has started the season brilliantly with his new club, and Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya striker Emad Muhsin, who scored the winner in the final of the 2017 AFC Cup to give his club a second AFC title.
The big surprise is the inclusion of Kasim. The midfielder, who moved to Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s Northampton Town from Swindon Town last summer, said he planned to retire from international football only a few months ago, but he has performed a U-turn and now has the chance to add to his 18 international caps. His last game for Iraq came in Perth in a 2-0 World Cup qualifying defeat to Australia in September 2016.
SQUAD TO FACE SAUDI ARABIA ON FEB. 28
Goalkeepers: Mohammed Gassid, Jalal Hassan, Mohammed Hameed
Defenders: Ali Faez, Mustafa Nadhim, Karrar Mohammed, Hussam Kadhem, Waleed Salim, Mustafa Mohammed, Ahmed Abdul-Ridha, Alaa Ali Mhawi, Bayar Aboubakir
Midfielders: Amjad Attwan, Yaser Kasim, Humam Tariq, Mahdi Kamel, Ali Husni, Hussein Ali
Attackers: Aymen Hussein, Emad Mohsin, Mohannad Abdul-Raheem, Arkan Amar