5 Key Takeaways From India vs Iraq – Kings Cup Semi-Final


After all the eager wait of Indian Football Fans, the Indian National Team was back in action in The Kings Cup, in Thailand. The tournament witnessed an intense opening match between India and Iraq, setting the stage for an intriguing semi-final showdown. Despite Iraq being ranked 70th and India 99th in the FIFA rankings, the clash turned out to be a thrilling contest.

The Blue Tigers were having a few absentees in the form of our Captain Leader Legend, Sunil Chhetri but Igor Stimac and his boys were ever so hungry to perform. A win would ensure a final spot while a loss would see us playing the 3rd place match on Sunday, which indeed turned out to be the story.

India vs Iraq

Kings Cup had been a story of upliftment and opportunity for the Blue Tigers in 2019 and the boys were ready to capitalize on this chapter as well. The match was held on September 7th at 4 PM IST in Thailand and the game started off well and to surprise many, India took the lead from a quality build-up move converted expertly by Mahesh Naorem Singh.

The encounter eventually culminated in a 2-2 draw, but Iraq emerged victorious in a penalty shootout. India gave an exciting account of themselves and showed the quality this team possesses under Igor Stimac. It is a very brave, positive, and confident Blue Tiger side that we are gradually being habituated to see.

This article delves into the 5 key moments and performances that defined this captivating match.

1. Mahesh Masterclass:

Mahesh Naorem Singh’s performance was nothing short of exceptional. Mahesh has been a talking point since last season and has continuously impressed one and all with his performances for both club and country. Mahesh was a show-stopper as usual. He started the match on right-wing but made sure he was all over the pitch.

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His quality was on full display, showcasing his ability to make a significant impact on the match and it was none other than Mahesh Naorem Singh who opened the scoring for India, providing the Blue Tigers with an early lead. His contribution showcased not only his technical prowess but also his ability to make a significant impact on crucial matches.

2. Dedicated Defence-The Wall of India:

India’s defensive line displayed commendable resilience, even though they conceded two goals. Unfortunate enough that both the goals came from the penalty spot but the Indian defence very characteristic of their own abilities stood tall like a wall whenever called into action. Every time the defensive organization and work ethic was under test they stood strong and did not allow Iraq to find a way through.

Sandesh Jhingan and Anwar Ali put their bodies on the line to repel Iraq’s attacks. It was a solid display from the back line but it wasn’t enough for the Blue Tigers to seal victory, but it is indeed noteworthy that Iraq failed to breach India’s defense through open play, with both their goals coming from penalty kicks.

3. Controversial Penalty Decision:

Decisions going here and there are a part and parcel of the game, especially without the application of VAR. Iraq came back into the game from the penalty spot in the first half to equalize against the Blue Tigers. But controversies arose as the second penalty was awarded to Iraq in the second half for a potential clash in the box involving Sandesh Jhingan.

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Such moments can decide the outcomes of games and a pivotal moment in this game was the contentious second penalty awarded to Iraq while India was ahead 2-1. Many observers questioned the decision, as it did not seem to be a clear-cut penalty. This moment of controversy had a significant impact on the match’s outcome. Of course it is a debatable one and it can not be claimed to be a totally wrong decision but the least that can be said is the incident being a bit controversial.

4. Blue Tigers and their Elite Mentality:

India’s performance exemplified a winning mentality. This has been a long-seeded positive change since Igor Stimac took charge of the Indian National Team and is gradually growing to a display of authority, confidence, and elite mentality on the pitch from India. This India Team is fearless and brave and do not sit back against any higher-ranked opposition.

From Lebanon to Kuwait and now Iraq the Blue Tigers are gradually showing examples of how good a team they can be. Even after being 29 places behind Iraq in the Fifa rankings India was up for a challenge in the clash. It was a very even contest until very late and India managed to take the lead twice in the game.

Despite the absence of stalwarts like Sunil Chhetri and key players like Lallianzuala Chhangte, the Indian team showcased their unity and played brilliant football and the match was a testament to their ability to function as a cohesive unit.

5 Key Takeaways From India vs Iraq - Kings Cup Semi-Final Indian Football Team 2

5. Brandon’s Penalty Miss- The Tie-Breaker:

Penalty shootouts are always tricky and so was the case here. India have recently played penalty shootouts in the SAFF Cup 2023 and knew a thing or two about holding on to their nerves but the task is never easy from the spot contrasting to how it seems on the screens. The climax of the match hinged on Brandon’s penalty miss during the shootout. Brandon took the first penalty which hit the post and it proved to be the decisive factor. All other penalties from both teams were converted leading to Iraq winning the fixture via penalties.

It is very easy to blame but Brandon has been one of the brightest stars of India’s midfield in recent years but it just wasn’t his day today. Brandon was returning from injury and had been out of action for an extended period. His miss, though unfortunate, demonstrated that such moments can happen to even the most accomplished players and added an extra layer of drama to the match’s conclusion.

In summary, the Kings Cup opener between India and Iraq was a captivating spectacle that highlighted the resilience and determination of both teams. Although the match ended in a draw, Iraq’s victory in the penalty shootout emphasized the significance of maintaining composure under pressure. India’s defensive solidity and their ability to perform as a cohesive unit were notable takeaways from this thrilling encounter, providing optimism for the future of Indian football.

India will be now gearing up to face Lebanon in the match for 3rd place, on the 10th of September at 4PM IST, in Thailand.

Follow IFTWC for the latest updates on Indian Football.

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