Bengaluru/Doha, December 29: It has been only four months since Srecko Katanec assumed charge as coach of Iraq national football team.
But within such a short span of time, the Slovenian has managed to forge such a strong bond with the players and turn them into a fighting fit unit that he believes they will give their all to excel at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup to be held in the UAE from January 5 to 31.
"I don't talk about chances because football is a very strange game. It has been just four months since I have been with them. But what I know is that they are a very happy group and they are fully committed," Katanec was quoted as saying in an interview with AFC Media Channel.
Irak🇮🇶— 🇫🇷Football Qatari 🇶🇦 (@QatarFoot_fr) December 25, 2018
Coach: Srecko Katanec, slovène
Classement FIFA: 88ème
Palmarès: 1 Coupe d'Asie (2007)
Stade national: Basra International Stadium, Basra, 65 227 places
Joueur à suivre: Ali Adnan, latéral de 24 ans, @Atalanta_FR pic.twitter.com/yiR22eLrZ8
Iraq last won the AFC Asian Cup in 2007. Since then it has been a case of near misses and failure to deliver when it matters most.
Katanec who represented Yugoslavia at the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games besides the European Championship in 1984 and the FIFA World Cup in 1990 feels Iraq are better prepared this time.
"Our preparations have gone well, very well, actually. Everything is ok. The team is ok. Everybody is in fine spirits. We have no injured players," said Katanec as Iraq grinded it out during a 10-day camp in Qatar.
Considered one of the greatest players from Yugoslavia and among the new nations to emerge after its break-up, Katanec has reinvigorated the Iraq squad.
"I took this job as a challenge because I know Iraq has a great past. They have a lot of talented players. I thought this was my chance for me to do something good for those guys," added Katanec, who has also played for Slovenia, besides coaching them for more than eight years in two stints.
At the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, Iraq are drawn in Group D along with the formidable Iran, Yemen and Vietnam.
Though Iran is the toughest in the group, Katanec did not underestimate the other two teams.
"Look, these days every match is difficult. Why? Because you can have a bad day and lose what on paper should have been an easy match. That's why I respect all teams. For me, as a coach, the more difficult matches are against Yemen and Vietnam. They're also here to show they belong. They'll fight. We'll fight. Nothing is easy," Katanec concluded.
(Source: AFC Media)
He has also played for Slovenia, besides coaching them for more than eight years in two stints