BAHRAIN are set to face a relatively full-strength Iraq tomorrow in their opening joint-qualifying match for the Fifa World Cup 2022 and the AFC Asian Cup 2023.
The match is scheduled for a 7.30pm kick off at the National Stadium in Riffa.
The Iraqis, coached by Srecko Katanec from Slovenia, arrived in Bahrain on Monday and directly went to training at the Bahrain Football Association pitches in Riffa.
They are scheduled to practise at the match venue this evening from 7.30pm, right after the home team take to the pitch at 6.30pm.
Katanec has called up many of his top internationals for the clash, including a number of their players who ply their trade overseas.
They include Ahmad Yasin who plays in Sweden, Osama Rashid (Portugal), Bashar Resan (Iran), Justin Meram (US), Humam Tariq (Egypt), Rebin Sulaka (Serbia), Ali Adnan (Canada) and Mohanad Ali (Qatar).
However, the Iraqis suffered a significant blow yesterday after team captain and first-choice goalkeeper Jalal Hassan suffered an injury during training.
After being examined by team doctors who are with the Iraqi delegation in Bahrain, Hassan has been ruled out for tomorrow’s match.
Katanec has decided to call up goalkeeper Ali Kadhim to replace Hassan on the squad.
Prior to his injury, Hassan was quoted as saying that his team was fully ready to face Bahrain. The veteran stopper noted that his side understood the importance of this week’s qualifier.
He added that both Bahrain and Iraq knew each other well, and an outcome could not be predicted based on the result of the West Asian Football Federation (WAFF) Championship final, which Bahrain won 1-0. He stressed that the qualifier and the WAFF tournament were two different matches under completely different circumstances.
The Iraqis were hosts then but they were lacking a number of overseas players. He added that now they were complete and were seeking to return to Iraq with full three points.
Hassan added that they had prepared well and had a clear idea of what they had to do to win their match against Bahrain.
Meanwhile, the Bahrainis continued their preparations last night at the Muharraq Club stadium in Arad.
Bahrain and Iraq are in Group ‘C’ of the qualifiers along with Cambodia, Iran and Hong Kong.
Following tomorrow’s fixture, the Bahrainis fly to Phnom Penh for an away qualifier against Cambodia on Tuesday.