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Our qualification will unite people back home: Iraq football coach

Kolkata, Oct 15 (IANS) Iraq’s football coach Qahtan Chitheer feels their qualification to the knockout stages of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup will unite people back home in a strife-torn country.

Iraq finished second in Group F behind England and will take on Mali in a round-of-16 clash in Goa.

“Nobody expected us to qualify. This was a tough group but we succeeded to be second with teams like Mexico and Chile,” Chitheer said after losing 0-4 to England in their last round group F fixture on Saturday.

“This will surely unite our people. We will forget today’s result and start afresh. We will study the team of Mali and do our best to go further,” the coach said.

Iraq will be without their star striker Mohammed Dawood who has three goals from two matches because of a double booking on Saturday.

In his absence regular captain Saif Khalid is likely to start after missing their group stage matches because of a niggle.

“We played the first match without him (Saif) because he had a little injury and then tried to stick with the same side. Maybe, we will need him next match,” Chitheer said.

On risking Dawood by bringing him in the second-half despite a booking, Chitheer said: “This is football. We will prepare our best. We will do the recovery and correct our mistakes of this match.”

Hailing England’s strong show, the Iraq coach said they lost to a better team.

“England were very strong opponents and well organised. We tried to change our tactics and played with five in defence but after that we went back to 4-2-3-1.

“England were better prepared than us, and deserved to win. Our players were exhausted with the high humidity,a he concluded.

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