10. Mohanad Abdulraheem (New Entry)
Al-Nasr (UAE) / Iraq / Striker
Words by Hassanin Mubarak
Mohanad Abdulraheem, the 2012 Asian Young Footballer of the Year, had long been touted as the successor to legendary Iraqi striker Younis Mahmoud and 2016 was the year when he fully realised his own potential, steadily earning himself a reputation on the Asian continent as a proven finisher.
His year with the national team had originated like many others before, replaced at half-time in a low-key friendly against Syria in Tehran. Mohanad had stayed behind in the dressing room but with his replacement and another substitute not ready to start the second half, the team played the first nine seconds with just 9 men! A snapshot of Yahya Alwan’s diabolical last months with the Iraqi side.
Mohanad started in the first World Cup qualifier of the year against Thailand, with Ali Adnan’s late-late deflected cross-cum shot giving the Iraqis a last gasp point which would see Yahya Alwan sacked hours later after the 2-2 draw. Incoming Abdul-Ghani Shahad, Mohanad’s Olympic coach, decided to start the striker on the bench for the next game, against Vietnam but fate would have a say in Mohanad’s year. Nineteen minutes in, Alaa Abdul-Zahra came off with a head injury and on came Mohanad and on the stroke of half-time. The substitute forward ‘thighed-in’ what proved to be the winner and the goal that would seal Iraq’s place in the next round of the World Cup qualifiers.
It was only his fifth goal in 24 international appearances for Iraq but returning from a sub-standard expedition at the Rio Olympics (prior to winning a league title with Al-Zawraa) where he hit the post with a header against the Brazilians of all footballing nations, the striker returned with some newly found vigour, notching six goals in his next five games putting his goal per game ratio after 29 matches on par with the likes of Ahmed Radhi and Emad Mohammed.
He earned himself a move to the UAE with Arabian Gulf League club Al-Nasr on a six-month loan deal until the end of the year – where he scored four goals in nine games, but by the turn of the year, the club’s administration decided to off-load the Iraqi striker – giving the choice of a spell with the reserves or a return back to Baghdad with Al-Zawraa. He decided on the later, and is now back with the Iraqi league champions.
Highlight of the Year – Four goal haul against Thailand in World Cup qualification
Last October, Iraq had lost three of their opening matches in their World Cup group and went into their clash at the Pas stadium in Tehran with fellow strugglers Thailand with both sides knowing they needed a win to keep in contention with their group rivals. Up stepped Mohanad to stir his country to a first win in the group and the first victory over Thailand in 15 years.
The potent striker was the deft finisher to Radhi Shanaishel’s robust attacking formation, with Mohanad showing his knack ability to be in the right place at the right time with each of his four goals coming from instinct tap-ins, a touch of a clinical goal scorer, something that had been lacking for so long for Mohanad with the Iraqi senior side.