Iraq have 'done homework' on Malaysia at AFC U23 Championship

Iraq Under-23 coach Abdul Ghani insists he is not underestimating Malaysia as his side prepare to take on the Young Tigers on Matchday One of the AFC U23 Championship in China.

Ong Kim Swee's Malaysia are certainly the underdogs, with Saudi Arabia and Jordan the other teams in Group C.

However, Ghani believes the fact that the Malaysians are there on merit ensures his side will face a tough task on Wednesday.

"We have done our homework on Malaysia," Ghani said, as reported in The New Straits Times. "The tournament gathers the best 16 teams in Asia and we cannot take any of them lightly.

"Our first goal here is to collect three points against Malaysia."

The Iraqis won the inaugural event back in 2013 in Oman before finishing in third place in 2016, so certainly have the pedigree to mount a strong challenge to win the tournament outright. Malaysia, on the other hand, are competing for the first time and have more modest targets.

"My players are fit and in good shape, and there are no injuries," Ghani said. "We are here to become champions. We are prepared for the tournament and we are now focused on Malaysia."

Meanwhile, Malaysia goalkeeper Haziq Nadzli insists his team will not be intimidated by the Iraqis following an incident between players from the two teams in a hotel lift in Changshu.

"When we were in the hotel lift, an Iraqi player stared at forward Jafri Firdaus Chew and made faces at him," Haziq said.

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"However, our teammate Ifwat Chek Kassim immediately responded and stared back at the Iraqi player. Luckily, everyone was cool.

"I think they are purposely trying to make us fear them. But it has not affected our focus."

Aggressive stares and making faces may not be enough to put the Malaysians off.

But a look at Iraq's record in the competition certainly suggests Ong's side will have a battle on their hands to get anything from the game on Wednesday.