Srecko Katanec ready to lead Iraq at AFC Asian Cup 2019

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Slovenian Srecko Katanec will lead Iraq at the AFC Asian Cup 2019 after being appointed by the Iraq Football Association as the national team head coach earlier this week.

Katanec brings with him plenty of international experience having previously managed at Euro 2000 and the 2002 FIFA World Cup with Slovenia, as well as the 2011 AFC Asian Cup with United Arab Emirates.

The immediate task at hand for the 55-year-old is to prepare the Lions of Mesopotamia for the upcoming Asian Cup which takes place next January, although he revealed he already has one eye on bigger targets.

“I am happy and proud to be the new coach of Iraq but there is not going to be a quick solution,” he said, according to the Asian Football Confederation’s official website.

“This is going to be a long process and it is going to take time to build the team at all levels. It is an exciting challenge, however, as there is a lot of talent in Iraq and if we can start moving in the right direction, then I am confident that we can have success.

“The AFC Asian Cup is an important tournament as it is also a major step in preparation for qualification for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.”

Iraq reached the final round of qualifying for the last World Cup but came up just short.

Iraq face a tricky route to the knockout round of the Asian Cup having been drawn alongside Iran, Vietnam and Yemen in Group D.

They begin their preparations with a friendly against Kuwait next Monday and Katanec is relishing the opportunity to familiarise himself with his new charges.

He added: “The Kuwait game is a good test for us to see where we are and realise what we have to do at the AFC Asian Cup.

“First, though, I am enjoying seeing the players in training and spending time with them.

“There are some quality players for me to work with and I am looking forward to the job ahead.”