Yemen v Iraq: Katanec guards against complacency

Iraq starts favourite for the contest, but head coach Srecko Katanec is wary of minnow Yemen.

Iraq coach Srecko Katanec   -  Getty Images

Iraq comes into Saturday's clash with Yemen as heavy favourite, but head coach Srecko Katanec is taking nothing for granted after a scare against Vietnam in its Asian Cup opener.

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Katanec's men twice came from a goal down to triumph 3-2 against Vietnam, requiring a 90th-minute Ali Adnan winner to collect the three points and join Iran at the top of Group D. And so, with memories of that meeting still fresh in his mind, Katanec is taking little comfort from next opponent Yemen's 5-0 humbling at the hands of Iran.

Cautious

The Iraq coach knows his side has the quality to record another win and move into the last 16, but he is guarding against complacency. "We know the quality of the Yemen team and they will fight just like Vietnam did," he said. "From the beginning, I'm sure they will be looking to score. I spoke to the players and told them to be very careful. We are the better team on paper, but football is strange and we will see how we fare against Yemen."

Yemen was defeated 5-0 by Iran in its last contest. Photo: AFP

 

Yemen boss Jan Kocian is confident his side will improve against Iraq, having learned its lesson in a tough opening fixture. "We want to put this behind us," he said. "We made individual mistakes against Iran and we have learned from them.

"It's Yemen's first time in a big tournament like the Asian Cup and we played the strongest team in our first match. We started very well but it's not easy to play against a strong team like Iran. I know my team can play better."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Yemen - Abdulwasea Al-Matari

While Yemen conceded five against Iran, it is its failure to find the net at the other end that appears to provide its greatest hinderance. Abdulwasea Al-Matari hit a brace when Yemen last scored — and won — against Nepal last year.

Iraq - Ali Adnan

Ali Adnan is one of the continent's most outstanding wing-backs and he has already left his mark on this tournament with a dramatic free-kick winner. He will hope for more joy against Yemen.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- This will be the first encounter at the Asian Cup between Yemen and Iraq.
- Yemen has scored just once in its previous nine international matches, failing to score in each of the past four.
- Iraq has scored two or more goals in four of its last five Asian Cup games, scoring 10 in total — as many as it had scored in its previous 11 in the competition.
- Yemen has lost seven of its past eight international games (W1), with its only win coming against Nepal in March 2018.
- Iraq's Mohanad Ali Kadhim has scored four goals in six international matches, including Iraq's first goal against Vietnam.

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