SYDNEY (AFP) – Iraq icon Younis Mahmoud dismissed speculation over his retirement and said he was targeting a “dream” World Cup spot after their Asian Cup campaign came crashing to a halt.
Mahmoud, famed for his winning goal in the 2007 final, said he was hoping to lead Iraq’s young players to the 2018 World Cup in Russia and end an absence of 32 years.
The 31-year-old striker remained upbeat despite Iraq’s 2-0 semi-final defeat to South Korea, who swamped the Lions of Mesopotamia at a wet Stadium Australia in Sydney.
“I know they won and went to the final but we won also, we won 20 players — they will benefit the national team for the next 10 years,” Mahmoud told Arabic press late on Monday.
“I think if the same group stays together then our dream will come true and we’ll qualify for the World Cup.”
Iraq have only ever played one World Cup, in 1986, and qualification for Russia 2018 would go down as a major success for the war-weary country.
Despite going clubless for a year, Mahmoud starred with two goals at the Asian Cup and a cheeky ‘panenka’ penalty under intense pressure in the quarter-final shoot-out with Iran.