Team Name: Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya
Nicknames: Al-Soqoor (The Falcons), Air Force Club Iraq
Home Ground: Saoud bin Abdulrahman Stadium, Qatar
League: Iraqi Premier League
Last official match played: Al Quwa Al Jawiya 3-1 Erbil (26th October, 2016)
Coach: Basim Qasim
The Falcons , as they are affectionately called, were founded in 1931 under the name of Gypsy Kings. Founded by a group of Iraqi Air Force policeman, the club changed its name to Al-Tayaran in 1974 and then reverted to the present name in 1991.
While not achieving much success on a continental stage, as this is the first time they have made it to the finals of an Asian Footbal confederation's (AFC) competition, they have amassed as many as eight domestic titles including winning the Iraqi Premier League five times, the last being in 2004-05.
They brushed aside a run of poor form in recent years and won the Iraqi FA Cup in 2015-16 and with the AFC deeming that clubs from Iraq would not be participating in the AFC Champions League, the Air Force Club along with Naft Al-Wasat were given entry into the AFC Cup.
Even though their close rivals, Al Zawraa have won more domestic titles than them and fellow club Erbil have reached the AFC Cup final on two occasions, they have a chance to make history as they too are on the path to becoming the first club from their nation to win an AFC competition.
Their previous continental forays have been nothing to write home about as they were eliminated in the group stages in three editions of the AFC Champions League in 2004, 2006 and 2008 as they failed to match up to the heavyweights from Kuwait and Lebanon.
The club was also the first team from Iraq to record a victory against a national team as they won 2-1 against the China in 1972.
|Road to the Final|
The Air Force club have reigned supreme as they have only lost one match out of the eleven played so far to make a maiden appearance in the final of the AFC Cup.
The group stages saw them matched-up against Shabab Al-Dhahiriya from Palestine, Al-Oruba from Oman and Al-Wahda from Lebanon. The only blemish in their otherwise pristine group stage encounters saw them lose out 2-5 away from home against Al-Wahda, but they won all five of their remaining matches, managing to keep three clean sheets in the process.
It was interesting to note that frontman Hammadi Ahmad scored in each of the six matches, including a hat-trick against Al-Oruba.
Ahmad was again on target as the Iraqi side downed Jordan's Al-Wehdat at home in the round-of-sixteen stage 2-1 to sail to the quarter-finals.
The last eight had the first leg tied at 1-1 against Syrian side Al-Jaish but a romp in the second leg where they won 4-0 saw them meet Lebanese side Al-Ahed in what was their sternest test in the tournament.
The home leg yielded a 1-1 draw while the Iraqi side won a terse away tie 3-2 in spite of being a man down, to seal their place in their maiden AFC Cup final.
Two of the key players would be missing from the side that would take on Bengaluru FC in the final with both defender Samal Saeed and 19-year-old talented midfielder Bashar Resan Boniyan, serving suspensions, the latter after picking up a red card in the second-leg of the semi-final against Al-Ahed.
Saad Natiq-Sameh Saeed- Ali Fadhil -Al Saadi
Mohammed Taher - Hamid Mido - Ahmed Kadhim - Zaher Midani
The suspended Boniyan will be a big miss for the Air Force club with another youngster Humam Tariq, who was an option to provide the width from the wing, looking doubtful for the fixture, due to injury.
Sameh Saeed will look to marshal the defense while Amjad Radhi and Hammadi Ahmad will be a handful for the Bengaluru FC defense.
|Players To Watch Out For|
Hammadi Ahmad: The goal machine has been in super-hero form in the AFC Cup as he has already netted 15 times in the competiton. It was only the semi-final first leg where he was out of the squad that he could not net, as he consistently scored in all 10 matches he played. The Bengaluru FC defense has to be on full alert to stop the diminutive striker from popping up and scoring.
Zaher Midani : The 27-year-old midfielder will provide creativity from the centre of the park with Bashar Resan suspended and Tariq possibly missing due to injury. He had stepped up in the first leg of the semi-final to score the crucial goal as the match ended 1-1 and will look to set up Ahmad from the centre of the park.
Sameh Saeed Mjabel: The 24-year-old defender will have to marshal the defense especially in the absence of the veteran Samal Saeed who will miss out due to suspension. He will have to keep the nippy Sunil Chhetri in check if his side are going to write themselves into the history books.
Zahir Midani - “When we play in Iraq we have thousands supporting us,” Midani said. “But we have lost that advantage. But I know people back home will be supporting us. This has to be a big gift to my home country (Syria) and also Iraq.”
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