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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 February 2019

Srecko Katanec: Iraq have a lot of work to do because these players have to come better prepared

Slovenian says more preparation and training camps needed with squad after Asian Cup exit

Srecko Katanec says he needs to spend more time with his players at training camps after seeing them exit the Asian Cup at the last-16 phase. Reuters
Srecko Katanec says he needs to spend more time with his players at training camps after seeing them exit the Asian Cup at the last-16 phase. Reuters

Srecko Katanec has urged greater cooperation between the national team and domestic clubs if Iraq are to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.

Iraq cruised through the group stages of the ongoing Asian Cup in the UAE unbeaten before exiting at the last-16 stage on Tuesday to Qatar.

For all their commitment and hard work, Iraq lacked the cutting edge to carve their opponents open, and were undone by a moment of pure quality when Bassam Al Rawi fired in a second half free kick for the only goal at Al Nahyan Stadium.

Katanec, the Slovenian who took charge less than five months ago, praised his players' efforts, but said he needed more time with them to get his message across if Iraq are to reach to a first World Cup since 1986.

“We have a lot of work to do because these players have to come better prepared from the clubs,” Katanec said following Tuesday's defeat.

“We have the quality to put together a very solid team. We also showed that tonight, and from my point, we played good football but what I didn’t see is the last pass in the [final] 20-30 metres. We don’t have the players to get the last pass.

“We have a lot of young players and this tournament provided me a lot of information for the future. We have a lot of work to do. We have very talented players but for this tournament it wasn’t enough.

“We need to have more sessions together. I cannot call them for some sessions between the Fifa dates. I have these players every month for eight days.”

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The Iraqis looked disjointed during the opening exchanges against Qatar despite seeing plenty of the ball.

Katanec put the lack of composure down to the exuberance of youth and a lack of playing time for his players at domestic level.

“We need to be strong mentally because we need to deal with every situation on the pitch,” Katanec said.

“For instance, Mohanad [Ali Kadhim – the 18-year-old forward] wanted to do too much and then he starts doing mistakes. They need to grow up [playing for their clubs] and get the experience when they come to the national team.

“The players were in a hurry. We wanted to make everything too fast. How we can fix this for the players? It comes from experience. You need to have patience from 20 metres.”

Iraq's Mohannad Ali looks dejected after losing to Qatar. Reuters 
Iraq's Mohannad Ali looks dejected after losing to Qatar. Reuters

Katanec said injuries were also a factor, with the Slovenian forced to replace Ali Hisny Faisal, a first-half substitute for midfielder Humam Tareq, midway through the second half after the latter picked up a knock. Defender Alaa Ali Mhawi joined him on the sidelines five minutes later.

“Of course the injuries affected our plans a lot," added Katanec. "My plan was to have a second striker in the second half but unfortunately I couldn’t do that.”

Katanec's opposite number, Felix Sanchez Bas, said his players showed great character to reach the last eight and would need more of the same if they are to overcome South Korea on Friday.

“We made a good start and created a few chances in the first 20 minutes,” said the Spaniard.

“In the second half we dominated early and scored. We also had the best moments to score more. We play South Korea next and they are a strong team also.

“However, like we have done throughout this tournament, we’ll take one game at a time.”

Updated: January 23, 2019 11:08 AM

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