Match Report: Gallant India lose 1-2 to Iraq, win hearts of Indian football fans

India U22 football team
Indian Team Singing National Anthem before match against Iraq

They are 74, we are 164 in FIFA Rankings. They are Asian powerhouse, we are minnows. They have won Asia Cup in 2007, we managed to qualify just once in four decades.

But all that didn’t count when Papa’s (read Arthur Papas) Boys, the Blue Cubs, the resurgent India came to take on the mighty Iraq in their second match of AFC U22 Championship Qualifiers on the back of a 5-2 victory against Lebanon.

India started with 4 changes in the starting line up. This team had more of the regulars as Papas knew that Iraq are a tough side. However in place of Deepak Devrani, Vishal Kumar was used along with Souvik Ghosh. Jeje Lalpekhlua started too.

Iraq were dominating in terms of possession of the ball and attacks. But India had there composure intact. The UAE coach was jotting down notes to weigh both their rivals in the group. During the half time he was asked what did he think of India’s performance.

And he says,

India’s organisation is good. Iraq are pressing but your team is not crumbling down. You should have converted the two chances you got

UAE coach on India’s performance during HT

He was referring to a powerful header by Holicharan Narzary and a shot on goal by Manandeep Singh, both of which were deflected by the goalie for corner.

35′ India 0-1 Iraq

Jawad Kadhim got past Vishal Kumar and sneaked into the box and followed with a cross which found the Iraqi captain Ali Mohammed Alialah who scored the goal with a header.

Jeje Injury

In the 38th minute Jeje Lalpekhlua came off the pitch limping. He had to be replaced by Holycharan Narzary whose first touch itself was almost a goal.

42′ Almost an equalizer

Manandeep Singh, who was chasing every ball and leaving no stone unturned , almost found the equalizer. But his goal-bound shot was deflected by Alialah in the final moments for a corner.

49′ India 0-2 Iraq

Even before we could realize the Iraqis had taken a 2-0 lead over India right into the second half. It was Ammar Abdul Hussein who scored through a header. Fans on Indian Football Forum were loosing hope and apprehending another drubbing.

62′ Two great chances

We were 0-2 down, but the spirits were high. India tried to regroup itself and build attacks with beautiful one-twos between Alwyn George and Lalrindika Ralte. In the 62nd minute, Ralte’s long-ranger was somehow palmed away by the Iraqi goalie. In the very next minute, his free-kick hit the wall.

82′ India 1-2 Iraq

In the final quarter of the game, Iraq tried to slow down the pace of the game. The 3 points were for them to lose. India on the other hand went all out on attack.

In the 82nd minute, the super-dribble boy George Alwyn again fooled 3 defenders to put it past the onrushing Iraqi goalkeeper. India were back in the game! But we could not find the equalizer in the match.

A great display of spirit and a great result indeed. What was apprehended to be a drubbing could have turned into a draw or even a win. But that is for the future. The Blue Cubs have made us proud.

The following comments from the UAE coach observing our game sums up the excellence of the boys:

India aren’t sticking to one formation. They are constantly changing. Sometimes it’s 4-3-2-1; the next moment it’s 4-3-1-2 and then 4-3-3. Such teams are always dangerous.

UAE Coach


In record books, India U22 lost the match. In reality, India won hearts.

With inputs from AIFF media manager Mr Nilanjan Datta.


  1. Brilliant display by Indian team ..I live in Dubai and I am thinking of going to Oman to support this team..shame that national media is not covering this properly ..

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