Sharjah: Iraq head coach Srecko Katanec is not taking anything for granted when the Lions of Mesopotamia face Yemen in Group D of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 at the Sharjah Stadium on Saturday.
Iraq twice trailed in their opener against Vietnam, but produced a late fightback to collect three valuable points in a five-goal thriller at the Zayed Sports City Stadium on Tuesday.
After the win against Vietnam, Katanec believes his team are well prepared to face Yemen.
“Our team is well rested and focused to take on our next opponents,” said Katanec.
“Playing Vietnam was very difficult, but fortunately we came back twice. It’s a very good quality for a team to come back and win the game.”
However, the former Slovenia national team coach has warned his team that Yemen will be tough opponents.
“We know the quality of the Yemen team and they will fight just like how Vietnam did. From the beginning for sure they will be looking to score.
“I spoke to the players and told them to be very careful. Normally we are the better team on paper, but football is strange and we will see how we fare against Yemen.
“Each game is different and I hope we can play like we did in the second half against Vietnam.”
Yemen, on their part, are looking to put their 5-0 defeat to Islamic Republic of Iran behind them with head coach Jan Kocian claiming the team have learned from their mistakes and are aiming for a positive result against Iraq.
“It has just been a few days since our match against Iran. We lost 5-0 and have analysed the match. We want to put this behind us. We made individual mistakes against Iran and we have learned from them,” said Kocian.
Yemen are playing in their first AFC Asian Cup since unification and Kocian said they can play better than how they performed against Iran.
“It’s Yemen’s first time in a big tournament like the AFC Asian Cup and we played the strongest team in our first match. We started very well but it’s not easy to play against a strong team like Iran. I know my team can play better.
“We know how strong the Iraqi team is. They changed their formation from 5-3-2 to 4-3-3 against Vietnam. It shows what a quality side they are.
“We want to play good compact football in defence and use counter-attacks. We want the best for Yemen football and we go into every match with a winning mentality.”