Iraq coach Qahtan Chither has accused Mali of fielding a team that looked like an Under-23 team in their Round-of-16 defeat on Tuesday. Iraq were thrashed 5-1 by an extremely powerful Mali outfit in a very one-sided contest that never got going. And asked specifically about how his team had struggled to contend with Mali’s tall defenders, Chither didn’t hold back about his assessment of his rivals.
“We knew that Mali had very good players. But sometimes it’s unfair, especially when it comes to the physicality of the players. There is a big difference between the African teams and others. They sometimes look like they are the U-23 team and not the U-17. Its quite visible in the way they play, the way they shoot and their ability. You can’t compare them with the U-17 sides,” he said.
Chither, though, said that “football was about fair play” and the Iraqis would not be filing any official complaint against the Malians.
Mali coach Jonas Komla didn’t take too lightly to his counterpart’s allegations, citing that there were rules in place to put a check on age-fraud and that “it was always important to accept the result” in football.
“When it comes to this competition, there are certain rules when it comes to age and they are all tested by FIFA. So when it comes to the result, you have to accept it in the spirit of football,” said Komla.
A FIFA official at the ground, meanwhile, questioned the Iraqi coach’s strong comments saying if Chither did have a grouse, he should have brought it up before the match.
“He came for the press conference yesterday and didn’t say a word about the Mali players. They lose 5-1 and suddenly they all look Under-23. FIFA has strict rules in place and uses wrist scans for all players to determine their age in the build-up to a tournament,” he said.