Bafana's mysterious opponent
Jaco van der Merwe
Bafana doing their homework (Gallo)
Sourcing information about Iraq’s national football team is proving more difficult than expected for the Bafana Bafana’s management team.
South Africa will face Iraq in the opening match of the Confederations Cup on June 14.
It is imperative for South Africa coach Joel Santana to know how his opponents operate if his men are to beat the Iraqis. A victory in the opening match will ease the hosts' job of reaching the Confederations Cup's semi-finals.
It will mean that South Africa will only have to win one of their other two pool matches - against New Zealand and Spain - to reach the knockout stages.
Footage of the Euro 2008 champions, Spain, is quite accessible, but it is almost impossible to analyse key players in the Iraqi squad.
Since the outbreak of the war, the Iraqi team play their home games in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Syria and Jordan and none of their national players ply their trade in any of the European leagues.
The team’s players earn their money by playing in the leagues of Iraq, Iran, UAE, Qatar, Jordan, Cyprus and Lebanon.
Another problem for Santana’s planning is the fact that the team is likely to change their tactics under new coach Bora Milutinovic. He was only recently appointed as Iraq's coach.
Santana will rely heavily on the video of the friendly match between Iraq and Poland which will take place just before the tournament in June.
Bafana will play Poland on June 6 in Soweto and Poland will take on Iraq three days later in Cape Town.
But not everyone is too concerned about the shortage of footage. Bafana Bafana midfielder, Siphiwe Tshabalala, says the team will not worry too much over the unknown Iraqi players.
“They could still change their pattern of play (on the video) before or during their match against us. Then you are in trouble if you can’t adapt.”
“It doesn’t matter if we don’t get videos. They only give you an idea of what to expect tactically, but it isn’t a big advantage.”
“We have to focus on ourselves. We can’t afford to worry about what the other side is going to do.”
But Tshabalala says they will not underestimate the Iraqis - even though they are nine places below Bafana Bafana in the world rankings.
Iraq is the 86th ranked team in the world and booked their place at the tournament after being crowned champions of Asia two years ago.