When politics and football meet – Iraq vs Iran

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iNews.co.uk РLONDON, The international break before Christmas is traditionally one that yawns wide open as fans are deprived of a fortnight of club football action, with little excitement on the TV to replace it.

But there are games out there worth watching – you’ve just got to know where to find them.

So this game might not be high up on your list of high-quality encounters and it might be hard to track down a bar showing it live, but this all-Middle Eastern clash – a qualifier for the 2022 World Cup if you can believe it – will be worth keeping an eye on.

The venue itself has already been changed with civil unrest in Iraq making Basra an unworkable location, and instead the two sides will meet in Amman, a Jordanian port city perhaps best known for its scuba diving. It would have been the first meeting between the two sides actually held in Iraq since 2001 – but alas anti-government protests put paid to that one.

On the footballing side, Iran have so much belief in their squad that they have left out Brighton’s Alireza Jahanbakhsh, although given his solitary appearance for his club side this year, picking him might have been folly.

They will not want for attacking threat though as Zenit St Petersburg’s Sardar Azmoun is fit, and he has 32 goals in 49 international appearances.

Attempting to stop him will be Ali Adnan, the former Udinese defender now based in Canada with the Vancouver Whitecaps; for him, this game will be about much more than football after he flew to Baghdad to join in the demonstrations against Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi.

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