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Vancouver Whitecaps
1:00 AM UTC Feb 23, 2017
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Europa League round of 16 draw

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Iraq soccer team not short on motivation

They may be out of World Cup contention and fielding a severely understrength side but don't expect Iraq to be short on motivation.

Australia face the world No.98 side in their crucial World Cup qualifier at ANZ Stadium on Tuesday.

Sitting at the bottom of the qualifying group Iraq are out of the mix for Brazil and playing for little more than pride.

A win for the Socceroos however, would secure them an automatic spot in next year's showpiece.

Adding to Iraq's woes, they'll be without their two greatest players in skipper and prolific scorer Younis Mahmoud and key playmaker Nashat Akram, who both announced their shock retirements from international football last week.

With the exception of a few players, Iraq will essentially be fielding their under-20 side.

Goalkeeper Noor Sabri, who along with Khaldoun Ibrahim are the only surviving members of the 2007 Asian Cup-winning team, is the oldest member of the squad at 28.

Seventeen-year-old Humam Tariq on the other hand represents Iraq's generation next and, with 10 caps already under his belt, is widely considered one of their most promising prospects.

Sabri warns the team's youngsters will be out to prove themselves on such a big stage on Tuesday, especially with new coach Vladimir Petrovic at the helm.

"We've got Humam and other young players in our squad who we have a lot of faith in," Sabri said on Monday.

"Most of them will be going to the under-20 World Cup in Turkey next week so I think this match is a great opportunity for them to gain experience.

"It's upsetting that we are out of World Cup qualification.

"But yes at least this will be a perfect opportunity for these young players to prove themselves."

Iraq have historically been a tough assignment for Australia and Sabri says they'll be out to try to claim a big scalp yet again.

"They have a lot of players that play in Europe and when you get a good result against a team like this it makes you very proud and proves how good you are," he said.

"Regardless of if it's a friendly match, a qualifier, any match - we go out there to get the best result and to represent our country in the best way."


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