Kuala Lumpur: With the FIFA U-17 World Cup in India concluding on Saturday, the-AFC.com takes a closer look at one of the continent’s rising stars who featured in the tournament: Iraq’s Mohammed Dawood.
Ever since Younis Mahmoud headed in a memorable winner in the 2007 AFC Asian Cup final at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium, Iraqi fans have been waiting for similar success in international football. In the 10 years that followed, the national team have struggled to replicate that achievement.
However, while the senior team lacked significant success, Iraq's youth teams have been flourishing in recent years. With the Class of 2007 all but a distant memory, Iraqis are now looking to their young prodigies to energise the national team once again.
Mohammed Dawood is one such talent who is waiting in the wings to display his quality at the highest level.
The 16-year-old played a starring role in Iraq's triumph at the AFC U-16 Championship in India last year, picking up the top scorer and Most Valuable Player awards.
Earlier this month, Dawood was part of the Iraqi team at the FIFA U-17 World Cup where he was undoubtedly one of the standout performers of the group stage, helping Iraq progress to the knockout phase after scoring once against Mexico in a 1-1 draw and twice in a 3-0 win over Chile.
After picking up a second yellow card in the final group game against England, he ended up watching from the sidelines as Iraq were eliminated after a 5-1 defeat to Mali in the Round of 16.
There was reason to be disappointed after the heavy defeat but such has been the performances of Dawood and his teammates that they have now been promoted to the U-19 squad that is preparing to participate in the qualifiers for the 2018 AFC U-19 Championship.
Dawood's career has seen a meteoric and consistent progress so far and it is likely that he will make his breakthrough into the senior squad sooner than is expected for a player of his age.
Born in on November 22, 2000 in Baghdad’s working-class district of Al Zafaraniya, Dawood's love for football came from the days he spent playing in the village of Saida where he was overseen by the likes of former Al Zawraa and Al Talaba star Amir Naji.
The young striker then came to the attention of the ambitious Al Khutout Al Jawiya (Iraqi Airways) club and signed for the side for the 2015-2016 season, during which he became the team’s top scorer in the Iraqi second tier.
His stay at the club, however, only lasted for one season as suitors from the top divison came calling.
Signing for Al Naft in the summer of 2016 gave Dawood a chance to play in the Iraqi Premier League and it was a chance he took with both hands, or rather, feet.
At Al Naft, Dawood was deployed on the left side of a three-prong attack alongside Mazin Fayadh and Ayman Hussein, two players whose rise to Iraq's senior national team he could emulate soon. He impressed in his first season, helping the club to mount a serious title challenge.
In the midst of his groundbreaking success at club level, Dawood was called up to the Iraq U-17 national team.
He has since become a pivotal component of coach Qahtan Chathir's plans and the relationship between the two looks set to continue after the coach was given the mandate to take over the U-19 team.
All this begs the question: when will Dawood step up to the senior national team?
With the legendary striker Younis Mahmoud now retired, the slot is vacant for a goalscorer of his ilk. For the passionate supporters of the Lions of Mesopotamia, Mohammed Dawood is the one jewel they have long yearned for.
Photos: Lagardère Sports