Zico to widen Iraqi player search

After steering Iraq into the next phase of Asia's World Cup qualifiers, Zico plans to widen his search for players until June when the team will play for a berth at the 2014 finals in Brazil.

Former Brazil midfielder Zico said that on taking charge as Iraq's coach in late August he had had to build his team quickly because the qualifiers were upon them and he could not call up all the players he wanted to.

Zico told Reuters he and his coaching staff knew little about Iraq's players when they started and picked the team from a squad of 27 that included 17 semi-professionals from the national league.

"We lost our first match and won the other four and qualified ahead of time," said former Japan coach Zico, whose team went through alongside Jordan in Group A with a match to spare.

"Now we'll have plenty of time to see other players, watch championships... and widen our scope and the range of players," the 58-year-old said.

"I had to make practically the same call-ups [each time]. I'm going back to lead the team in the Arab League, I'm going to bring on many reserves and Olympic-age players."

Zico said the challenge in Iraq was similar to the pressure he experienced in the big clubs he coached like Fenerbahce in Turkey or Olympiakos of Greece.

He said Baghdad had not recovered yet from the destruction of war and could not stage international matches.

"We are aware of what football means to Iraqis and we want, if possible, to continue giving joy to a suffering people," he said.

Zico was confident Iraq would qualify for the finals in his home country, saying: "We're working for that and we have qualities to fight for a place. We won the first stage."