Iraq vs. Uruguay: FIFA U-20 World Cup Semifinal Preview, Predictions

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistJuly 8, 2013

Having both come through the quarterfinal stage of the competition by fine margins, Iraq and Uruguay will look to book their place in the final of this summer’s U-20 World Cup when they meet in the second of our semifinal fixtures this week.

Along with Colombia, Uruguay were one of just two teams to make it through the group stage conceding just one goal, and they have since let in just one more goal through the next two stages of the tournament.

Meanwhile, Iraq have been far leakier in defence, but are yet to fail to score in a fixture, making for what should be a promising encounter between two sides with opposite strengths.

This year’s edition of the U-20 World Cup has already thrown up its share of surprising results. With Uruguay heading now in as favourites, here’s all you need to know about this semifinal matchup.


Team News and Form

Iraq and Uruguay have gotten to the semifinal stage in completely different fashions, showcased perfectly by the manners in which they progressed through their quarterfinals.

For the South Americans, it was a case of attempting to shut down Spain’s key players, holding out until extra time before Felipe Avenatti’s 103rd-minute winner proved to separate the two sides.

In direct contrast, Iraq saw out a 3-3 draw with South Korea, going into the lead three times but also surrendering an equaliser on just as many occasions.

Eventually, Hakeem Al Azzawi’s side won 5-4 on penalties. But they will need to be able to prevent Wednesday’s opponents from going into the lead if they’re to have any chance of ensuring Uruguay don’t shut them out entirely.

Neither side picked up any new injury concerns in the quarterfinals, but will both feel fatigued having played at least 120 minutes of football over the weekend.


Key Players

Nicolas Lopez

Having already scored four goals and made two assists in the tournament, nobody in the Uruguayan squad has had a direct impact on more goals than Nicolas Lopez.

The 19-year-old Roma forward has enjoyed a prolific national career at the U-20 level and is the most reliable hope Uruguay have of improving their scoring record over the next week.

Lopez’s brace provided his side with the means to pull off a 2-1 win over Nigeria in the Round of 16. And while the teenager may have gone off the boil against Spain, he has a great chance of adding to his tally when he meets Iraq.

Ali Adnan

While Uruguay’s strong defence means their most important player heading into this game is an attacker, Iraq’s reliable attack means their most important player is a defender who holds the difference to winning and losing this week.

Ali Adnan is one of just six players to have played every minute of Iraq’s U-20 World Cup this year and it’s of little wonder why.

It was Adnan’s 90th-minute equaliser in his nation’s opening match of the competition against England that snatched a point for Iraq, providing them with a platform from which they went on to win Group E.

The left-back has been a reliable and consistent threat, surging down his flank before delivering some impressive ammunition.

All that being said, Adnan’s priorities lie in defence when his side meet Uruguay mid-week. With two goals and two assists from Uruguay’s right wing, Giorgian de Arrascaeta is bound to test Adnan, and it’s vital that the Iraqi defender limit the Uruguayan’s say on matters.

Guillermo Varela has also proven to be a threat from right-back, meaning Adnan has a tough day cut out for him in the semifinal fixture.


Predicted Lineups

Uruguay (4-3-3)


Iraq (4-2-3-1)

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