Iraq will face off with Bahrain in Asian World Cup Group Three qualifier on Tuesday the 19th of November at 3:00 pm GMT. The encounter will be contested at the Al-Qwaismeh King Abdullah International Stadium, a 62,000-capacity arena which lies north of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.
The fixture is an incredibly significant crunch-match between the two teams which lie in 2nd and 3rd place in Group C. Iraq top the group having played three, won two and drawn one game with a goal difference of +6 after scoring seven and conceding just once in their qualifying fixtures so far. Bahrain occupies the second-top spot in Group C after the same number of games and with an identical won/loss/draw record of won two, drawn one. Their goal difference, however, is inferior having scored three goals and conceded one, giving them an overall GD of +2.
The last time the two teams faced each other was relatively recently, on the 5th of September earlier this year. On this occasion, in the reverse fixture to the one taking place on the 19th of November, the two teams played out a 1-1 draw at the Bahrain National Stadium. Bahrain got off to the dream start as Al-Riffa midfielder Al Aswad scored a 9th-minute goal to put the hosts 1-0 up. Their lead lasted until five minutes from time when Al Duhail forward Mimi equalised for the visitors to keep them top of Group Three.
Iraq’s next get came against Hong Kong where they triumphed 2-0 thanks to goals from Mimi again and then Ali Adnan.
Bahrain beat Cambodia 0-1 in their second game with another goal from Al Aswad in the 78th minute of the game. In retrospect, 1-0 was not a particularly impressive scoreline for Bahrain as Cambodia were annihilated 14-0 in their next fixture. Iraq’s showing against Cambodia was a little more convincing as they comfortably won 4-0. In the same round of fixtures, Bahrain got their second victory of qualifying as they beat Iran 1-0 thanks to 65th minute Al-Hardan penalty.
In terms of the outcome of this game, the FIFA World Rankings are a relatively good indicator as to where the two football teams are in terms of their sporting development.
Iraq lie in 74th place and have moved up five places since the last rankings were announced. Bahrain too are on the rise; they climbed four places from 105th to 101st in the last rankings announcement. So there is a 25 place gap between the two teams. On paper, this might seem like quite a large disparity but, based on history, we know rankings can be deceiving.
A much better indicator is the two team’s head-to-head results. Iraq and Bahrain have played each other 28 times in their histories. The first clash came in 1966 in the Arab Cup when Iraq astonishingly beat Bahrain 10-1. This thrashing was indicative of what was to come. It would be 35 years until Bahrain would claim their first victory over Iraq.
It came on an important stage too; Bahrain beat their rivals 2-0 on the 23rd of August in a World Cup qualifier. And, ever since then, their fortunes have been much more equal. In fact, in the last decade, it is Bahrain who have had the better of the results, losing just twice to Iraq in eight clashes.