In 2004 Iraq shook the world as they reached the semifinals of the 2004 Olympic games beating the likes of Portugal and Australia in the process. With Iraq embroiled in a war and with sports being the last of priorities in Iraq, the Young Lions Of Mesopotamia reached an amazing feat and we at Ahdaaf are going to run by the team and what they have accomplished since.
Noor Sabri was the starting GK in that tournament and would establish himself as one of the greatest GK in Asia’s history. He was the man that saved Iraq in the Penalty shootouts and conceded only two goals in the 2007 AFC Asian Cup campaign.
Other than a short spell at Mes Kerman in Iran, he played his entire club career in Iraq, currently playing with Iraqi Champions Naft Al-Wasat. He has won the Asian cup and 2 West Asian Cups as well as representing Iraq 98 times.
He briefly retired from international football in 2013 after stating “I have been here for too long, and I have to give the others their chance” since then He has returned to the iraqi team upon request from the Iraqi FA a couple of months ago.
He is also known for his penalty saving skills having never lost a penalty shoot-out in his career.
The goalkeeper position was always going to Noor Sabri as Oday spent most of his career on the bench for Iraq, getting only 5 Senior Caps, having a better career at club level playing for the likes of Al-Shurta, Al-Zawraa and Duhok.
For Iraqi fans whenever they hear his name most think “Damn he’s still playing?” well the reason for that is that when he broke out onto the scene in the Olympics, he was only 16 years old! He’s only 28 and the defender currently plays in Al-Minaa in Iraq
But he never fulfilled his potential, representing Iraq 16 times in 11 years , although he is the youngest to play and to score for Iraq, so that’s something for him to be proud of.
Spending most of his career in Iraq he also played in Lebanon for year with Al-Ansar and a year in Sudan with Al-Merreikh, winning the league and the cup there. He also won the IPL 4 times in a row from 2009 to 2012 and another time in 2006, and although he never got the international career he hoped for, I think he will be happy with 6 league titles in 12 years.
He’s the lad doing the bicycle kick. This strong and aggressive fullback is one of the best of his time: Pace, Strength and defending; he was the total package.
Currently at 35 playing In Al-Kahraba, he was an important part of the 2007 Asian Cup winning squad plus he’s also had quite the club career playing in Iran, Lebanon, Qatar and Turkey.
he’s represented Iraq on 91 occasions, scoring one goal against Azerbaijan in 2009. He won the IPL once and the Emir cup in Qatar once in 2008.
Haidar Abdul-Jabar was a weird call up this one, having played only 4 international matches earlier in the year (his only 4 caps ever) and he was one of the 3 over-23 players. He mostly had a career in the Iraqi league aside from short stints in Jordan and Syria. He last played for Erbil in 2013 and is now an assistant coach at his home club Al-Zawraa.
Haidar Abdul-Razzaq was a versatile defender who broke out to the scene very early going from playing U17 Club football to a national team debut in 4 years before going on to represent Iraq another 23 times but his momentum quickly died out. His last appearance for the Iraqi national team was in 2007 during their Asian Cup win. He didn’t have a notable club career either, playing mostly in Iraq. Although he did have a season in Syria and Jordan with 2 more in Lebanon. He did however become the first ever Middle Easterner to play in Uzbekistan for FK Andijan. He now plays his football in Sulaymaniya FC.
The very calm Defender is unbeatable on his day, often rotating between Fullback and defensive midfield had a very accomplished career being on the 2007 winning side in the Asian Cup.He also won the AFC Cup with Al Faisaly scoring in the final of that tournament. He spent 4 years in Jordan with Al-Faisaly and Shabab Al-Ordon, other than that he spent his career in the iraqi league winning it with Erbil. His most famous performance came in 2004 where he kept Cristiano Ronaldo in his back pocket as Iraq thrashed Portugal 4-2.
The greatest playmaker In Iraqi history, you may remember his story in 2007 when he signed for Manchester City but was denied a work permit; he would have been the first Iraqi to play In the English Premier League, a title that is yet to be claimed by anyone.
Nicknamed ”The Maestro” he was one of Asia’s best: his passing and vision was extremely important towards the success of the iraqi national team, making his debut at the age of 16. Having already over 70 professional matches, earning a move to Saudi Giants Al-Nassr in the process and then to another Saudi powerhouse Al-Shabab while also making his international debut, all of this by the time he was 19! Although his career has been a cursed one being robbed the Asian Player of the year (which was through point system) where it was wrongfully given to Yasser Al-Qahtani.
His dream move to England was cancelled due to him not getting a work permit, injures stalling his development once he made it to Europe where he spent most of his days at the doctor’s office in the Netherlands. Despite that, he still has a very accomplished career as he won the FIFA midfielder of the year award in 2007, he won the league in Iraq, Qatar, and the Netherlands alongside the Asian Cup at youth and senior level. He has retired since, although will still go down as one of the greatest players in Iraqi history.
The second of the 3 over-23 players, Abu Al-Hail, was the main playmaker of his time and a favorite of coach Milan Živadinović. He had amazing ball control, great passing and vision. He spent most of his time in Iran, with an earlier spell in the UAE. He won the Hazfi Cup and played in the Club World Cup in 2007, a fantastic accomplishment. He went on to represent Iraq 66 times, scoring 8 goals before he retired in 2013 and moved into coaching; where he now coaches at hometown club Al-Talaba.
Considered as one of the greatest to ever grace the Lebanese League (winning the League’s best player 3 times in his 3 seasons) as well as being top goal scorer once and getting the most assists once he won the league 3 times and the FA Cup 3 times. However, he hasn’t been as successful for the NT, scoring only 7 in 61 appearances. Albeit having spells in better countries in Egypt and Iran he will always be best known for his performances in Lebanon.
Nicknamed the Black Gazelle, he was the powerhouse in the heart of the midfield with his speed and stamina. He was a regular in the midfield in the Olympics and later on for the senior team. He suffered an an unfortunate injury in 2006 that put him out of action for a full year but bounced back to help Iraq to victory in 2007. He played for a short term in Saudi Arabia, UAE and several short periods for clubs in Iraq. However his most notable stint was in a 4 year stay at Qatar S.C winning the Crown Prince Cup in 2009. A 2-time Iraqi League Champion with 87 appearances.
The 37 year old is still going strong playing for club and country. The wing back started his career at Al-Naft before moving to Al Talaba and after his impressive performances at the Olympics he moved to Cypriotic side Apollon Limassol where he won the league and the Super Cup , before moving to Al-Ahly in Libya winning Best Foreign Player of the season (and goal of the season). A 4 year stint at Erbil saw him win the Iraqi league during his time. Currently plays his football back at Al-Talaba. He was an important part of the Asian Cup win in 2007, ultimately representing the Usood Al-Rafideen 104 times.
One of the stars of the Iraqi Team through the 2000’s scoring twice in that tournament. Starting his career at Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya and scoring 54 times in 79 games from the wing, he was part of the league win that season before moving to Al-Ansar in Lebanon where he also won the league and cup double. That saw him earn a move to join Mahdi at Apollon Limassol In Cyprus, winning the Cypriot league. Furthermore, he went on loan to UAE for a year and played for a year at Al Khor in Qatar before re-joining the Cypriot league with Anorthosis Famagusta. This is where he made history by being the first ever (and only) Iraqi to play in The European Champions League also becoming the first Iraqi to score! He had a spell with 3 Iranian teams where he won the league and the cup before returning to his maiden team Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya, retiring this season after finishing runner up in the Iraqi league. On the national front he played 112 times scoring 19 goals, also proving himself as a very important part of the 2007 Cup win scoring against Australia, and assisting the winning goal in the final.
The forward who is now a coach at Erbil spent most of his time with the National Team as a substitute, playing 28 times and scoring 5 goals. He played in Qatar, Syria and Egypt but he never quite found success outside of Iraq.
Starting his career at Al-Shorta he gained a move to giants Al-Zawraa in 2000, winning 2 league titles. After the olympics he moved to Bahrain to play for Riffa S.C. where he also added a league title to his honour cabinet. He then moved to Lebanon to play with Al-Ansar winning the league and cup double. He later moved to Syria for a season before returning to Iraq. He was part of the golden squad that won the 2007 Asian Cup: He played 36 times for Iraq scoring 10 goals in the process.
The legendary forward was extremely important in the Olympic success, scoring an iconic overhead kick in Iraq’s 1-0 win vs. Australia during the knockout stages as well as scoring versus Portugal in the 4-2 win. He started his career at Al-Zawraa in 1998 where he won 3 league titles and 2 FA Cups as well as Young Player of the Year in 98 and the Player of the Year 2 years later. A move to Al-Gharafa in Qatar saw him win the league and cup double before 2005 where he moved to the Iranian league finding success and winning 2 league titles plus a Hazfi Cup. Playing in the Club World Cup where he scored twice, he then moved for a short spell in Egypt in 2011 where he won the cup there with giants Al-Zamalek. He retired in 2014 and is now a coach at Karbala. For Iraq he played 103 games scoring 27 goals, however unfortunately for him he was left out of squad for the 2007 Asian Cup.
The instinctive goalscorer was a classic Number 9 for Iraq. He was the third of the 3 over-23 players and was the captain of Iraq during that tournament where he scored a goal in the semifinals against Paraguay. He is the ninth all time Iraqi top goal scorer with 25 goals in 62 games. His goalscoring abilities made him desired by many clubs in the region that saw him play for 12 clubs in 6 countries over a career spanning 17 years. He Collected gold medals in Iraq, UAE, Jordan and Bahrain. He was part of the Iraqi team that won the WAFF championship in 2002 scoring a hattrick versus Kyrgyzstan in the process, and again in the 2005 WAFF games where he scored in the final versus Syria. His last Game for Iraq came in 2006 as he was not called up for the national team later on due to personal reasons. Razzaq retired in 2012 after returning to his boyhood club Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya
The Cream of the Crop of that Iraqi side was a player known worldwide for his goal scoring ability, talent and personality. Younis thrived after the 2004 Olympics where he moved to Al-Khor and led them to win the Qatar Crown Prince Cup. The moment that caught everyone’s eye was when he broke records after scoring 6 goals in one match against Al-Shamal while assisting two others. His impressive performances earned him a move to Al-Gharafa where he established himself as a legend, forming a fearsome striker partnership with Clemerson. They both dominated the Qatari league winning 3 titles in 5 years, as well as winning the Emir and Crown Prince Cup, Sheikh Jassim Cup, and the Qatar Stars Cup while finishing as league runner up on 2 occasions.
During that time he won the league’s Golden Boot on 3 occasions, with Clemerson being the top goal scorer on another occasion. After a very successful career with Al-Gharafa he moved to Al-Wakrah for 2 seasons where he scored 14 times in 33 games, winning the Qatar Stars Cup in the process. He then joined Raul at Al-Sadd for a year winning the league title and Emir cup. He left Qatar in 2014 after a 10-year stay winning each of the 5 possible trophies and being the all time top goal scorer of the Qatar crown prince cup.
All in all he won 13 titles in 10 years. He then went on to have a short stint at Al-Ahli in Saudi Arabia, before recently returning to his boyhood club Al-Talaba where he is playing free of charge!
On the International level his records are just as impressive. He scored the equalizer vs. Thailand in the first group stage game alongside scoring 2 goals in the 2-0 win over Vietnam in the quarterfinal including (at the time) the fastest ever goal at the Asian games, and the winning goal in the final. In 2015 he became the only player to score in 4 consecutive Asian Cup competitions. He is the most capped Iraqi player of all time and the third all time top goal scorer. He is also the current third active top goal scorer in the world.
The Achievements of the 2004 squads were the first of their kind in Iraqi football, besides their unforgettable win in 2007. They played in leagues all over the world and succeeded. They have made history and their accomplishments will never be forgotten.
As one legendary generation is coming to end another one is getting started. With the new batch of Iraqi players coming through, things are looking for the better despite the administrative fracas in place. A similar squad of players finished 4th in the U23 World cup in 2013, and won the U23 Asian Cup in 2013 as well. These players were also present in finishing 4th in the Asian cup earlier this year.
These players have taken it one step further by chasing their dreams and have already made moves to play in Europe, they have the chance to achieve great things in the future like the ones before them. But can they achieve the one thing that their predecessors failed to achieve? Make a 29 year dream come true, can they reach the World Cup finals? They certainly have the talent for it but will the country’s instability and differences stop them? That is something only time will tell but for now these players continue to impress on club level and hopefully whatever is in store for them is nothing but good fortune.