Iraq national football team
|Nickname(s)||Lions of Mesopotamia
Usood Al-Rafidain (اسود الرافدين)
|Association||Iraq Football Association|
|Sub-confederation||WAFF (West Asia)|
|Head coach||Akram Salman|
|Asst coach||Nazar Ashraf|
|Most caps||Younis Mahmoud (139)|
|Top scorer||Hussein Saeed (61)|
|Home stadium||Basra Sports City|
|FIFA ranking||86 (7 May 2015)|
|Highest FIFA ranking||39 (October 2004)|
|Lowest FIFA ranking||139 (July 1996)|
|Elo ranking||73 (31 March 2015)|
|Highest Elo ranking||26 (December 1982)|
|Lowest Elo ranking||86 (15 November 2013)|
| Morocco 3–3 Iraq
(Beirut, Lebanon; October 19, 1957)
| Iraq 13–0 Ethiopia
(Irbid, Jordan; August 18, 1992)
| Turkey 7–1 Iraq
(Adana, Turkey; December 6, 1959)
Brazil 6–0 Iraq
(Malmö, Sweden; October 11, 2012)
Chile 6–0 Iraq
(Copenhagen, Denmark; August 14, 2013)
|Appearances||1 (First in 1986)|
|Best result||Round 1, 1986|
|Appearances||8 (First in 1972)|
|Best result||Champions, 2007|
|Appearances||1 (First in 2009)|
|Best result||Round 1, 2009|
The Iraqi national football team (Arabic: المنتخب العراقي لكرة القدم) represents Iraq in international football since 1948 and It is governed by the Iraq Football Association (IFA). The Iraqi Football Association was founded in 1948 and has been a member of FIFA since 1950, the Asian Football Confederation since 1970, and the sub-confederation regional body West Asian Football Federation since 2000. Iraq also is part of the Union of Arab Football Associations and has been a member since 1974. The Iraqi team is commonly known as Usood Al-Rafidain (Arabic: اسود الرافدين) which literally meaning Lions of Mesopotamia.
Iraq is one of the most successful national teams in the Arab League, having a record won of a total of four Arab Nations Cup (1964, 1966, 1985, 1988). On the Asian level Iraq is one of the powerhouses having won the AFC Asian Cup once (2007), the Gold Medal of the Asian Games (1982), three Gulf Cups of Nations (1979, 1984, 1988), and West Asia Championship (2002).
Iraq have been awarded the AFC National Team of the Year award two times (2003 and 2007), being the only team from West Asia to win this award.
- 1 History
- 1.1 Early years
- 1.2 1986 FIFA World Cup
- 1.3 The Dark Era (1990-99)
- 1.4 The Golden Generation (2000-2007)
- 1.5 2007 AFC Asian Cup Victory
- 1.6 After the 2007 Asian Cup (2007–2009)
- 1.7 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup
- 1.8 2011 AFC Asian Cup and 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification
- 1.9 2015 AFC Asian Cup and 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification
- 2 Home matches in Iraq
- 3 Fan chanting
- 4 Kits
- 5 Competition records
- 6 Matches
- 7 Coaching staff
- 8 Players
- 9 Records
- 10 Trivia
- 11 Honours
- 12 See also
- 13 References
- 14 External links
The Iraq national football team's first international match was played in 1957 in Lebanon where the team tied Morocco 3-3. The first FIFA World Cup Qualifiers Iraq took part in was the 1974 qualifiers.
Iraqi football reached a peak in the 1970s and 1980s – Iraq qualified for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, and 3 times for the Olympic Games in Moscow, Los Angeles and Seoul. Iraq also won the 1982 Asian Games, the Arab Nations Cup 4 consecutive times, the Gulf Cup of Nations 3 times, and the 1985 Pan Arab Games fielding a B team. Iraq finished in 4th place in the 1976 AFC Asian Cup – the last Asian Cup Iraq would participate in until 1996.
1986 FIFA World Cup
Iraq were seeded into the first round of qualifiers where they faced Qatar and Jordan. Iraq topped Group 1B with 6 points, and advanced to the second round. Iraq faced United Arab Emirates in two legs. Iraq defeated UAE 3–2 in Dubai. Iraq lost with 2–1 to UAE in the second leg. Iraq won 4–4 aggregate on away goals and advanced to the final round. In the final round, Iraq tied Syria 0–0 in Damascus. Iraq defeated Syria 3–1 in the second leg in Taif. Iraq won 3–1 on aggregate and qualified to the 1986 FIFA World Cup
At their first game of the Group B at the 1986 FIFA World Cup, Iraq played well against Paraguay, losing narrowly 1–0 despite scoring a goal that was wrongly disallowed by the referee. Iraq recorded their first World Cup goal in the second game, scoring against Belgium in a 1–2 defeat, with Ahmed Radhi scoring a goal for Iraq. Following defeat with Belgium, Iraq were eliminated from the World Cup. Iraq played against hosts Mexico in the third game and lost 1–0.
The Dark Era (1990-99)
During the rule of the government of Saddam Hussein, Saddam's son, Uday Hussein, was in charge of the Iraqi Olympic Committee and, by extension, the national football team. Under Uday's leadership, motivational lectures to the team included threats to cut off players' legs, while missing practice sessions would lead to a term in prison. A loss brought flogging with electric cable, or a bath in raw sewage. After the Gulf War, Iraq was banned from participating in the Asian Games and in most Arab competitions. In 1996 Iraq was ranked 139th in the world, the worst FIFA ranking in Iraqi football history.
During the qualifying for the 1994 World Cup, Iraq faced Japan in Doha in the final match of the final qualifying round on 28 October 1993, where Iraq needed a win to advance. However, Japan produced a 2–2 tie, which resulted in elimination for both teams.During the qualifiers for the 1998 World Cup they failed to reach the final round of qualifying, coming second behind Kazakhstan.
The Golden Generation (2000-2007)
After qualifying to the Asian Cup 2004, Iraq was drawn with Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan in the tournament. Iraq finished second in this group by winning 2-1 against Saudi Arabia and 3-2 against Turkmenistan, and losing 1-0 to Uzbekistan. In quarter-final clash against China, Iraq lost 3-0.
In November 2004, Iraq failed to qualify for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, losing out to Uzbekistan. Despite this, Iraq won the 2004 AFC Team of the Year award by the end of the year. In 2005, Iraq won the Gold medal of the West Asian Games.
2007 AFC Asian Cup Victory
Iraq's first major honour was the 2007 AFC Asian Cup. The tournament started with a 1–1 draw with Thailand in Bangkok. That was followed by a 3–1 win against Australia and a 0–0 draw with Oman. The quarter-finals saw them beat Vietnam 2–0, and the semi-final against favourites South Korea went to penalties that ended goalless after extra time. Noor Sabri was Iraq's hero when he saved Korea's fourth spot-kick from Yeom Ki-hun. After Ahmed Menajed had made it 4-3 to the West Asians, Korean Kim Jung-woo hit the post to send the nation through to their first Asian Cup final.
The final was against local rivals Saudi Arabia, and Younis Mahmoud scored the only goal on 72 minutes to win the tournament for Iraq. This victory secured Iraq's first Asian Cup title. As the winner, Iraq represented the AFC at the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup.
After the 2007 Asian Cup (2007–2009)
On May 26, 2008, FIFA provisionally suspended the Iraq Football Association from competition for one year, following a decision by the Iraqi government to disband the country's national sports federations. However the decision was overturned by FIFA on May 29, 2008, since the Iraqi government reversed its earlier decision in dissolving the Iraq Football Association.
In June 2008, Iraq failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, gaining two wins over China and Australia, a tie against China, but lost their final game in the group 1–0 to Qatar. They ended up with 7 points from 6 games behind Qatar and Australia
2009 FIFA Confederations Cup
As a result of winning the 2007 Asian Cup, Iraq qualified for the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, that took place in South Africa in June 2009, in which matches that were scheduled against the hosts, Spain, and New Zealand. In the opener, Iraq was able to hold South Africa to a 0–0 draw. And only lost to Spain 1–0 and was 0–0 at half-time. Though Spain defeated South Africa 2–0 which was necessary for Iraq to advance to the next stage, needing to beat New Zealand by 2 goals, but only tied 0–0.
2011 AFC Asian Cup and 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification
Iraq qualified automatically for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup. They were drawn against Iran, North Korea and United Arab Emirates in Group D. After a 2–1 loss against Iran, and 1–0 win against United Arab Emirates, Iraq went into the match against North Korea needing only a draw to progress. Iraq won 1–0 and advanced to the quarterfinals as runners-up. On 23 January, Iraq lost to Australia, 1–0, in the quarterfinal. The match went into extra time with Harry Kewell heading in a goal in the 117th minute just inside the 18-yard box.
Under coach Wolfgang Sidka, Iraq were drawn into the second round of qualifiers where they faced Yemen. Iraq defeated Yemen 2–0 in Arbil on 23 July before drawing 0–0 in Al Ain five days later. Iraq advanced to the third round of qualifiers where they were grouped with Jordan, China and Singapore. The top two teams from the group progressed to the fourth round. The Iraq Football Association (IFA) has announced it won't be renewing the contract of national team boss Wolfgang Sidka on 2 August 2011.
On 29 August 2011, Brazilian legend Zico has signed a one-year contract to become the new coach of Iraq. Iraq topped Group A with 15 points, with Jordan coming in second with 12 points. They made it for the first time since 2001 to the fourth and final qualifying round. In the final qualification stage, Iraq was drawn with Jordan, Japan Australia and Oman.
On 28 November 2012, Zico resigned as head coach. The Iraqi FA appointed Vladimir Petrović as head coach of Iraq on 25 February 2013. Under Petrović, Iraq lost its first game against China 1-0 during an Asian Cup Qualifier on 22 March 2013. 4 days after that match, Iraq won 2-1 during a friendly in Baghdad (the first match in Baghdad since 2009). In May 2013, Iraq lost a friendly match in Baghdad 1-0 against Liberia.
After 3 consecutive losses in June, Iraq failed to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, finishing bottom of the group in the final qualifying round, with 1 win, 2 draws and 5 losses out of 8 games played. Petrović coached a young squad to a 6-0 loss to Chile on August 14, 2013 in a friendly match, which would go on record as Iraq's worst ever defeat in their history. After the shocking 6-0 loss to Chile, Iraq's football association fired the national team's Serbian head coach on 10 September 2013, blaming a string of "bad results", after the squad failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
2015 AFC Asian Cup and 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification
Shaker took over as the Iraqi national squad head coach as Iraq attempted to qualify for the 2015 Asian Cup. Iraq were in the 2015 AFC Asian Cup qualifying group alongside Saudi Arabia, China PR and Indonesia. On 15 October 2013 Iraq lost 2-0 against Saudi Arabia. Despite a better display, Iraq lost 2-1 against Saudi Arabia on 15 November 2013. Iraq kept alive their hopes of qualifying for the 2015 AFC Asian Cup as first-half goals by Hammadi Ahmed and Karrar Jassim gave them a 2-0 away win over Indonesia on 19 November 2013.
On 5 March 2014, Iraq booked their spot with a commanding 3-1 win at the Sharjah Stadium against China, with veteran Younis Mahmoud contributing two goals and Ali Adnan one. The win allowed Iraq to book their ticket to the 2015 AFC Asian Cup as group runners-up, finishing behind Saudi Arabia with nine points.
Iraq began the 2015 AFC Asian Cup campaign with a 1–0 win over Jordan. The goal was scored by Yaser Kasim. In next match, Iraq faced Japan and lost the match 0–1. Iraq then beat Palestine 2–0 and qualified to knockout stage as the Group D runner-up behind Japan with six points. Iraq defeated Iran in the quarter-finals in penalties, 7–6, after the game ended 3–3 after 120 minutes of play. They faced South Korea in the semi-finals but lost 0–2 and failed to progress to the final. Iraq finished the AFC Asian Cup in fourth place, after lost 2–3 to United Arab Emirates in third/fourth place play-off.
The FA appointed Akram Salman as head coach of Iraq.
Home matches in Iraq
Home matches dilemma
Iraq played their home games on neutral territory in the 1980s due to the Iraq-Iran war, but still qualified for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, and three Olympic Games (Moscow, Los Angeles and Seoul). In qualification for the 2002 World Cup, Iraq played at home against Iran, Bahrain, and Thailand in the Al Shaab Stadium in Baghdad, but Saudi Arabia refused to play against the nation because of the tensions between that country and the regime of Saddam Hussein. In 2003, the war in Iraq forced Iraq to play their "home" matches outside the country for security reasons, and so fixtures were held in Jordan, Syria, Qatar or the UAE.
Due to the Iraq war and post war events, Iraq was unable to host home matches in Iraq. In 2009 the Iraq Football Association (IFA) asked FIFA to end its ban imposed on hosting official matches in Iraq. Iraq resumed playing on home soil on July 10, 2009, winning a friendly 3–0 against Palestine in Franso Hariri Stadium, Arbil. Iraq played the same opponents three days later, in Al-Shaab Stadium in Baghdad, this time winning 4–0 in front of a crowd of over 50,000. The same month, the AFC Executive Committee approved the stadium at Arbil as a venue for matches involving the Iraqi national team, and clubs in continental tournaments.
On September 2, 2011, Iraq played their first FIFA World Cup qualifier on home ground for the first time in years. They played against Jordan in front of a crowd of 24,000 people in the Franso Hariri Stadium in Arbil. On 22 March 2013, FIFA lifted a ban on international football friendlies in Iraqi stadiums on Thursday, permitting matches in Baghdad for the first time since the 2003 US-led invasion, an Iraqi football official said.
On March 26, 2013, Iraq played their first International friendly match in Baghdad since 2009 against Syria in front of a crowd of 50,000+ people in the Al-Shaab Stadium in Baghdad. However, on 3 July 2013, FIFA barred Iraq from hosting international football friendlies due to a massive surge in nationwide violence, barely three months after world football's governing body gave Baghdad the go-ahead.
On May 4 2015, FIFA lifted a ban on international football friendlies in Iraqi stadiums. 
Iraq national team supporters are known for chanting "O Victorious Baghdad" for Iraqi teams matches.
Always remains High, O Victorious Baghdad, ( أتضلي دايما فوق، منصورة يا بغداد )
And to see your eternal Glory, O Victorious Baghdad. ( و نشوفج بعز دوم ، منصورة يا بغداد )
O Victorious Baghdad, O Victorious Baghdad, ( منصورة يا بغداد، منصورة يا بغداد )
Another famous chant is "هسه يجي الثاني" which literally translates into "the second goal is coming" this is usually being chanted repeatedly after Iraq scores a goal to motivate the players to score another.
The Iraqi national football team has previously been sponsored by brands such as Adidas, Puma, Nike, Diadora, Jack & Jones, Lotto, Umbro, Peak and its current sponsor is Jako.
|2004–2005||Jack & Jones|
FIFA World Cup record
FIFA Confederations Cup
- Football at the Olympics has been an under-23 tournament since 1992.
Major Asian tournaments
AFC Asian Cup record
Noticeable International friendly tournaments record
|1964||Arab Nations Cup||Champions||4||3||1||0||6||2|
|1966||Arab Nations Cup||Champions||6||5||1||0||20||5|
||Gulf Cup of Nations||Champions||6||6||0||0||23||1|
|1984||Gulf Cup of Nations||Champions||7||4||2||1||12||5|
|1985||Arab Nations Cup||Champions||4||3||1||0||7||3|
|1985||Pan Arab Games||Champions||4||4||0||0||7||1|
|1988||Arab Nations Cup||Champions||6||2||4||0||7||2|
|1988||Gulf Cup of Nations||Champions||6||4||2||0||8||1|
|1989||Peace and Friendship Cup||Champions||5||2||2||1||9||5|
|2005||West Asian Games||Champions||4||3||1||0||13||3|
|2009||UAE International Cup||Champions||2||2||0||0||2||0|
Records versus other nations
Iraq rivalry with Kuwait is considered as the Arab world's greatest football rivalry of all time. The rivalry began since mid 70's and it was the decade from 1976 until 1986 that saw the golden age of football for arguably the finest teams the region has produced. Both nations Imposed their complete domination on the Gulf region, and from the Gulf Cup's inception in 1970 until 1990, the tournament was won by only two teams; Kuwait seven times (1970, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1982, 1986, 1990), and despite Iraq's absence in the first three editions and withdrawn in two others, Iraq won it three times (1979, 1984, 1988).
Iraq and Kuwait took their increasingly bitter rivalry to a new level. On June 11, 1976, the two met in the semi-final of the Asian Cup in Tehran; Kuwait took the lead twice, Iraq came roaring back twice, And then, in the 10th minute of extra time, Kamel scored the winner for Kuwait. In 1979, the year Iraq clinched their first Gulf Cup and won over Kuwait 3–1, the two met in a qualifier for the Moscow 1980 Olympic Games, both managed to qualify to the Olympic Games, and both made it to the quarter-finals in Moscow. Iraq also qualified for the 1984 Games in Los Angeles and 1988 Games in Seoul. The 1982 Asian Games was won as well. Kuwait won the 1980 AFC Asian Cup, which they hosted. The nations also left their mark on the world stage. Kuwait qualified for the 1982 World Cup finals in Spain. Iraq matched that in Mexico 1986.
As Iraq and Kuwait traded Gulf titles in 1988 and 1990, few could have imagined that their rivalry on the football field would be replaced by an altogether more catastrophic one on the battlefield. Because of the Gulf war, football would never be the same again. Iraq and Kuwait were in complete avoidance and never met for more than a decade. Kuwait's Blues had a relative recovery of sorts, winning the Gulf Cup in 1996 and 1998, before securing their record 10th title in 2010. Iraqi football, because of the torturer-in-chief Uday Hussein's reign of terror as head of the football association, would take far longer to recover. When it did, it was in glorious fashion, the Lions of Mesopotamia winning the 2007 Asian Cup.
The rivalry is not such a football-inspired ill-feeling between the two, but more of geography, religion and history. Iran and Iraq are neighbouring countries, sharing a long history. In contemporary era, especially during the reign of Saddam Hussein, the two countries had bad relations and fought the Iran–Iraq War for 8 years.
In 2001, for the first time in decades, an Iran-Iraq match was not held at a neutral venue.
The rivalry between the two teams was escalated after the 2015 AFC Asian Cup. The two sides faced each other in the quarter-final with Iraq prevailing 7–6 on penalties after a sensational 3–3 draw in Canberra; the game was described as one of the best in the tournament's history. After the game, Iranian supporters voiced their anger at the referee's performance and even launched unfounded allegations against Iraqi player Alaa Abdul-Zahra claiming he was doping; their complaint was immediately rejected by the AFC. Iraq eventually finished fourth in the tournament with Iran failing to make the final four for the third straight time and the tensions between both sets of supporters have never been greater.
Recent results and fixtures
Win Draw Loss
|Head coach||Akram Salman|
|Assistant coach||Nazar Ashraf|
|Goalkeeping coach||Emad Hashim|
|Fitness coach||Gonzalo Rodriguez|
|Team doctor||Qasim Mohammed|
|Technical director||Basil Gorgis|
- The following 29 players were called up for the International Friendly :
- Match date: 11 June 2015
- Opposition: Japan
- Caps and goals are correct as of March 31, 2015, after the match against DR Congo.
The following players have also been called up to the Iraq squad within the last 12 months. Retired players are not listed.
- 1972 Asian Cup squad
- 1976 Asian Cup squad
- 1996 Asian Cup squad
- 2000 Asian Cup squad
- 2004 Asian Cup squad
- 2007 Asian Cup squad
- 2011 Asian Cup squad
- 2015 Asian Cup squad
- As of 31 March 2015
- Players in bold are still active, at least at club level.
|#||Name||Caps||Goals||First cap||Latest cap|
|1||Younis Mahmoud||139||53||19 July 2002||31 March 2015|
|3||Nashat Akram||128||17||5 October 2001||4 June 2013|
|4||Hussein Saeed||126||61||17 July 1977||3 March 1990|
|5||Hawar Mulla Mohammed||112||19||31 August 2001||12 June 2012|
|7||Mahdi Karim||109||11||12 October 2001||28 December 2014|
|8||Ali Rehema||105||2||8 June 2005||5 March 2014|
|9||Emad Mohammed||103||27||12 November 2000||11 November 2011|
|10||Laith Hussein||96||25||1986||13 January 2002|
Top 10 goalscorers
- As of 31 March 2015
- Players in bold are still active, at least at club level.
|10||Hawar Mulla Mohammed||2001–2012||19||112||0.17|
- Iraq holds the Asian record for having scored in 27 consecutive matches between 1992 and 1996.
- Group stage (1): 1986
- Group stage (1): 2009
- Winners (1): 1982
- Winners (1): 2005
- Winners (1): 1985
- Runners-up (1): 1999
- Iraq national under-23 football team
- Iraq national under-20 football team
- Iraq national under-17 football team
- Iraqi Premier League
- FIFA provisionally suspends Iraq, Associated Press, May 26, 2008.[dead link]
- Socceroos qualifier against Iraq to proceed, The Age, May 29, 2008.
- President’s promise to lift the ban on Iraq soon, Iraq123 News, February 10, 2014.
- "Wolfgang Sidka dismissed as Iraq coach despite 2014 World Cup qualifying progress". Goal.com. 2011-08-02. Retrieved 2015-01-28.
- "Brazil legend Zico agrees deal to coach Iraq". Espn Fc. 2011-08-29. Retrieved 2015-01-28.
- [dead link]
- [dead link]
- [dead link]
- AFC green-light to Arbil as venue
- Al-Mutamar Newspapers (Arabic)
- "JAKO Blog - JAKO-Team im Irak". Jako.de. Retrieved 2015-01-28.
- Storied Gulf Cup rivalry between Iraq and Kuwait survives war
- Duerden, John. "Asia awaits neighbourly rivalry". ESPN. Retrieved November 22, 2014.
- Montague, James (January 13, 2011). "Pitch Warfare: Iran face Iraq in soccer grudge match". CNN. Retrieved November 21, 2014.
- "Iran-Iraq classic rivalry". Iran Daily (4924). November 5, 2014. p. 11.
- "Asian Cup: Iran claims Iraq's Alaa Abdul-Zahra tested positive, lodges complaint about quarter-final result". January 25, 2015.
- fifa.com: Aussies face tough test
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Iraq national football team.|
- Official Iraq national football team on FIFA.com
- Iraq national football team website
- Iraqi Football Picture Gallery & News - Official Iraq Football News Source (Arabic)
- Iraq Abroad-Based Players Official Website (Arabic)
- Hassanin Mubarak's blog on Iraqi football
- National & International Iraqi Information of Soccer - Iraq Football Archive (Arabic)
- Iraqi Football News in Swedish (Swedish)