When Zico made a post match press statement that he had dissolved the national team after the Arab Cup in Riyadh, he was not joking.
The Iraqi Football Association claimed that his statements were taken out of context and that he did not have the powers to dismantle the national side however against Japan, Zico made 10 changes to the side that played in the last group matches against Jordan and Oman, with only Muthanna Khalid starting in Saitama. The world press noted that Zico had been forced to make changes because of suspensions and injuries to key players however no player was suspended while only Salam Shaker, Basim Abbas and Mustafa Karim were out injured and it looks like the only player that would have made it from the three would have been Salam Shaker, who Zico chose as captain during the Arab Cup.
Zico had kept faith with the core of the 2007 Asian Cup side when he took over in August last year and the same group of players helped guide Iraq through the first group stage but two lacklustre performances against Jordan and Oman in the opening matches of the second group stage were the last straw and Galinho has decided to make drastic changes to the team. The Brazilian coach was unimpressed with many of his senior players not playing for any clubs, which was one of the reasons for Hawar Mulla Mohammed being dropped. Hawar had been without a club from January 6, 2012 after he announced he had left Zob Ahan due to problems with the club. He had played only 12 league matches during the 2011-2012 season, scoring one goal and out of those matches had only started half of those matches and had played only 412 minutes during the season, the last on December 12, 2011. He has still to play for his new club Arbil, who he recently signed for and his only matches in 2012 so far have been for Iraq.
Fans have long been calling for wholesome changes to the Asood Al-Rafidain line-up, with many of the aging star players underperforming for several years. The previous coach German Wolfgang Sidka attempted to inject new blood into the side and even spoke of dropping players such as Basim Abbas, Hawar, Emad and Nashat. But after his contract was not renewed in the summer of 2011, the German stated in the press that officials in the FA warned him of the backlash from the section of the fans if a popular member of the team was dropped! Zico had the same group of players but after 12 months in the job, he has decided to dismantle the group of players that have been the backbone of the national side since 2004.
Zico named a complete new team for the clash in Saitama with new caps Walid Salim and Ali Bahjat in defence while Khaldoun Ibrahim started a match for Iraq for over three years. Ahmed Yasin – now seen by Zico as the future of Iraqi football – was given his first taste of competitive football and shone on the left flank. The two top goalscorers in the Iraqi league, Hamadi Ahmed and Amjad Radhi were also given starts ahead of Karrar, Nashat and Younis.
To illustrate how inexperienced the side Zico put against the current Asian Cup champions was. The eleven players that started the match had a total of 221 caps between team (156 of those were from only three players the team captain Nour Sabri, Muthanna Khalid and Alaa Abdul-Zahra). While on the bench five players Nashat, Younis, Ali Rahema, Qusai, Karrar and Kasid had a total of 495 caps.
It now seems that after the drama during the summer over his unpaid salary, the Brazilian has taken full reins of the national team and the team selection and for Iraq the Zico revolution has finally begun.