- Saad Natiq performed for Iraq at the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2013
- He additionally confronted a Brazilian facet containing Neymar at Rio 2016
- His intention is now to assist Iraq return to the World Cup after an extended absence
Thirty-five years have handed since Iraq debuted at the FIFA World Cup™. That group was spearheaded by the late Ahmed Radi, who beat none apart from Belgium’s Jean-Marie Pfaff to rating the nation’s one and solely purpose at soccer’s premier occasion.
Now, three-and-a-half many years on, a brand new era of Iraqis imagine they will finish the group’s lengthy hiatus. With two matchdays remaining in the second spherical of qualifying for the FIFA World Cup Qatar2022™, the Lions of Mesopotamia lead the means in Group C.
Srecko Katanec’s facet face Hong Kong subsequent Friday then IR Iran on Tuesday 15 June in a captivating duel that can most definitely decide who tops the group and qualifies immediately for the third and decisive qualifying spherical.
As nicely as a potent assault headed by Mohanad Ali, the Slovenian coach will probably be relying on his formidable rearguard for the subsequent two video games. With solely three targets conceded in six fixtures, Iraq unsurprisingly boast the meanest defence in the group.
Defender Saad Natiq, who performed the first 5 group video games earlier than lacking the final one in opposition to Cambodia due to suspension, returns to the facet. He discovered time to chat with FIFA.comabout Iraq’s desires of reaching the subsequent World Cup in Qatar.
“We’re top of the group so have a good chance of securing qualification [for the next round] in the next two matches,” he says of his group’s possibilities.
“We had a great interval of preparation with the squad all collectively and contesting two friendlies. Right now, the group are in prime kind, so I hope we will carry out to a great degree in these two fixtures to make the Iraqi followers completely satisfied.
“The role of the coach has been key, because he’s worked a lot on how we set up at the back, giving us the best defensive record in the group. This motivates us to continue pushing ourselves to maintain that level,” added the 27-yr-outdated.
Man for the massive event
Saad Natiq shone brightly in 2013 when, together with lots of his present group-mates, he led Iraq to the semi-finals of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey. There they got here up brief in opposition to Uruguay and subsequently misplaced to Ghana in the third-place match.
Three years later, the commanding defender represented his nation at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament at Rio 2016, taking part in two video games. As nicely as buying invaluable expertise, Natiq had the distinction of serving to his facet earn a deserved draw with Neymar’s Brazil throughout the group part.
“Getting fourth place with the U-20s at a World Cup was a magnificent experience that we got to enjoy with our coach Hakeem Shakir. We also performed well at the Olympics but weren’t lucky enough to get past the group stage,” he remembers.
“It was a great adventure that taught us a lot. Taking part in those two tournaments gave us a lot of experience, so we’re hoping we can reach another World Cup. We’ll be doing all we can to achieve this goal,” the participant provides.
Natiq insists that Iraq’s superb outcomes lately are primarily due to the nice understanding that exists between group members who’ve been taking part in collectively since U-20 degree.
“Most of us have been playing together for a long time, as far back as 2013. We started with the U-20s, then we moved on to the Olympic team for Rio de Janeiro, and now we’re in the senior side. The end result is that there’s now a great rapport between the players, which has had a positive effect on the team,” he says.
“We hope to appear again at a major international tournament, such as the World Cup,” concluded Natiq, who would love to return to Qatar having performed there for Al Arabi. “However, reaching Qatar 2022 will require complete solidarity and support for the current generation. Only then will we achieve our goal and be able to face the best teams on the planet.”