Hong Kong become the first side to play World Cup qualifier in Iraq for 8 years

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Photo: Hong Kong Premier League

We all know the reasons why Iraq haven't been able to host home World Cup matches for some time now. Because of the instability in the country, all this changed for this cycle of World Cup qualifying matches, with Fifa announcing that Basra is deemed safe enough to hold matches. 

Hong Kong first away team to play a World Cup game in Iraq for 8 years

Hong Kong becomes the first side to play a World Cup qualifier in Iraq for 8 years, with the city of Basra being the host for the game. The stadium was packed out, and Hong Kong managed to hold their own during the first half.

Iraq was given a dodgy penalty in the first half, and Hong Kong's keeper Yapp Hung Fai made an excellent saving, guessing the right way and palming the ball to safety. I was under the impression the atmosphere would be deafening and Iraq would be chomping at the bit considering it was their first home game for a considerable length of time, but Hong Kong's defensive set up had Iraq stifled.

That was until Iraq broke the deadlock, unfortunately, which is the issue with setting up your team to start the game so defensive. Once you concede it is difficult to change and become more attacking. Hong Kong had this issue and struggled to offer any kind of threat once the deadlock was broken, as their game plan was clearly to get in and out with a draw, or do a smash and grab by hitting them on the break.

With the game plan out of the window, Hong Kong was always on a road to losing. I thought Hong Kong did a good job until they conceded, then it looked like there was no idea how to go about getting back into the game. This is something Mixu needs to sort out, I am aware that Hong Kong is in one of the toughest qualifying groups, but you can't win games by only defending and he needs to give players a chance to attack once they fall behind, or have a plan b of how they can attempt to get back into the game.

Obviously, you don't want to be hammered 14-0 like Cambodia were in Iran either, but once your defensive plan is broken by conceding, you need to allow a little more caution to be thrown at getting an equaliser instead of being ultra defensive. Personally, I think Mixu is far too defensive, but considering the teams he has had to play against, then ultra-defensive is likely the way to go.

It will be interesting to see how Hong Kong go about competing with Bahrain, because Taiwan has shown that Bahrain can be defeated by East Asian opponents and Taiwan and Hong Kong are very similar level sides, despite the current rankings. Mixu has to allow Hong Kong to attack a little more when the chance arises, or when they fall behind. They are very capable of getting positive results against Cambodia and Bahrain if given the chance to have a go at them.

The defining moment of Hong Kong's World Cup qualifier in Basra was how loud the roar was when Iraq's first goal went in. Loud doesn't describe it.

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