12/3/2018 4:22:44 PM (GMT+3)

Iraq will need to put in extra effort, says former captain Abbas

Iraq will need to put in extra effort, says former captain Abbas

BAGHDAD, Iraq: Former Iraq captain Abbas Obaid said they will need to make the most of their 20-day training camp in Qatar ahead of the 2019 Asian Cup, which starts next month in the UAE.

“The Iraqi league is now on a break for 40 days, 20 days for the training camp in Qatar and 20 days for the Asian Cup. This is a vital time for the national side,” Abbas, who led the side at the 2000 edition in Lebanon, told the-AFC.com.

He said that Iraq can reach the knockout stage, but may have to face strong sides like South Korea or Japan.

“Because our domestic league is not at its strongest level in recent times, I feel the players may find it difficult to raise their game in the tournament,” he had predicted before the 2015 tournament in Australia.

A prediction that proved accurate after Iraq were beaten 2-0 by the Koreans in the semifinals.

“There’s a big difference now. They don't have the big star names like before that can lead the team with exceptional individual performances. It’s also going to be a very difficult group. Both Islamic Republic of Iran and Vietnam are very good. I watched the Vietnam team in the 2018 AFC U-23 Championship and the Asian Games and they were very impressive,” said Abbas.

"If I have to make a prediction, I would say the quarter-finals this time is possible for Iraq, but I can't see them reaching the semi-final again, there are too many good teams.

"But under coach Srecko Katanec maybe they can do something good at this tournament, let's see," he added. (Source: AFC)