Indonesia vs Iraq

Ahmad bin Ali Stadium sets the stage for a high-stakes Asian Cup Group D curtain-raiser between Indonesia and Iraq. With Japan dispatching Vietnam in the other group fixture, whoever takes three points here would significantly boost their chances of progression.

After missing out on the last three Asian Cup installments, Indonesia return to the big stage seeking their first-ever knockout qualification, having suffered a group-stage exit in all four previous appearances. But based on their pre-tournament form, it could be easier said than done, with the ‘Team Garuda’ suffering four defeats in their last five warm-up fixtures (D1). To make things worse, one of those losses was a 5-1 demolition at the hands of upcoming rivals Iraq back in November 2023, while their final exhibition game yielded a 5-0 thumping to Iran. Since a 1-1 draw in 1973, the Indonesians have lost four consecutive meetings with Iraq by an aggregate score of 11-3, suggesting damage limitation could be their aim here.

On the other hand, it will be Iraq’s eighth consecutive Asian Cup appearance, with the ‘Lions of Mesopotamia’ making it out of the group stages in each of their seven previous attempts, including a title-winning 2007 campaign. The Iraqi enjoyed a dominant qualifying cycle, going unbeaten in seven of their eight matches (W5, D2) while returning an eye-catching +10 goal difference (GF:14, GA:4). It doesn’t mean Jesus Casas’ side can afford to lower their guard as duly reminded by a gut-wrenching 1-0 defeat to South Korea last time out. That loss interrupted Iraq’s six-match unbeaten streak (W2, D4 – 90 minutes only) and marked their first scoring blank since a 1-0 friendly reverse against Colombia in June 2023.

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