Kolkata: Iraq will look to continue their dream run and seal a maiden pre-quarterfinal berth when they lock horns with heavyweights England in a Group F match of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Kolkata on Saturday.
Making their second U-17 World Cup appearance, Iraq have been the surprise package of the proverbial 'group of death' as they are well placed to advance to the knockout stage following a spirited 1-1 draw against two-time champions Mexico, and a 3-0 rout of Latin American giants Chile.
England have already sealed a last-16 berth, while a draw will be enough for Iraq to earn a historic place in the knockout stage.
However, Iraq would be aiming for an outright win which will make them group toppers and see them play their knockout match.
For Iraq, Mohammed Dawood has been in the centre of their attack scoring three of the four goals. He is continuing from where he had left in their historic AFC U-16 Championship triumph around the same time in Goa last year.
The Iraqi No 7 looked a complete striker with his pace and control and his freekick from just outside the box that curled around the wall into the net in their win over Chile summed up the Baghdad youngster's brilliance.
It will be interesting to see how he goes past the English defence led by captain Joel Taibeaudiere along with Timothy Eyoma, Marc Guehi and Jonathan Panzo.
The English defence seemed to crumble against a Diego Lainez's seven-minute brace late in the second half last Wednesday as they survived a scare to outlast Mexico 3-2 and ensure a pre-quarterfinal berth.
Iraq coach Qahtan Chitheer will look to exploit the defensive fragility of the English team as the contest will ultimately boil down to the two teams' defence.
However, the coach does not want to add pressure on his ace forward Dawood.
"There are other players in the team who are equally good and talented as well. Each player has his own skill. We play as a team and we have been able to achieve success through tough training conditions," Chitheer said on the eve of the crucial match.
With seven goals from two matches, the Young Lions could not have asked for a better start. Precocious Dortmund attacking midfielder Jadon Sancho has showed why he's much sought-after with three goals from two matches.
Manchester United's Alex Gomes, Manchester City's Phil Foden and Rhian Brewster of Liverpool – all have looked in prime form with goals to their name and the English attack will not look any further.
Sancho is likely to leave for his club after the group stage as Manchester United starlet Alex Gomes who had started from the bench in both their matches may be given more responsibility.
England coach Steve Cooper said they are not taking Iraq lightly even though they have already reached the last-16.
"It's a luxury to qualify after two games. But we are not thinking past the group stage yet. We have to show respect to our next opposition by recovering and putting on a good show again," Cooper said.
England: Curtis Anderson, Josef Bursik, William Crelin; Timothy Eyoma, Joel Latibeaudiere, Marc Guehi, Jonathan Panzo, Lewis Gibson, Steven Sessegnon, Morgan Gibbs White, Tashan Oakley Boothe; Conor Gallagher, Angel Gomes, Nya Kirby, George McEachran; Jadon Sancho, Callum Hudson Odoi, Philip Foden, Emile Smith Rowe, Rhian Brewster, Danny Loader.
Iraq: Ali Ibadi, Mustafa Zuhair, Abdulazeez Ammar; Ali Raad, Muntadher Abdulsada, Abdulabbas Ayad, Ammar Mohammed, Maytham Jabbar, Muntadher Mohammed, Mohammed Al-Baqer; Habeeb Mohammed, Saif Khalid, Mohammed Ridha, Abbas Ali, Bassam Shakir, Mohammed Ali, Moamel Karim, Ahmed Sartip; Mohammed Dawood, Ali Kareem, Alaa Adnaan.
Match starts at 8pm.
Updated Date: Oct 14, 2017 10:02 AM