A-League fan favourite Ali Abbas is delighted to be back playing football in Australia even if it's not under the circumstances he imagined.
The former Sydney FC man is part of the travelling Iraq squad taking on the Socceroos in Perth on Thursday night as both nations ramp up their World Cup qualifying campaigns.
Abbas says he couldn't help but smile when the qualifying draw pitted the country of his birth against the country he played in for a decade.
"I was so excited," he said on Wednesday.
"I don't want to play against (Australia) but I'm very happy to be here and play for Iraq."
Iraq call-ups haven't always come for Abbas over his career but he said he knew he would be brought back into the fold when new coach Radhi Shenaishil was appointed earlier this year.
The 'Lions of Mesopotamia' have turned over their coach and a number of senior players in recent months.
Legendary forward Younis Mahmoud retired after their last World Cup qualifier, along with Ali Rehema, Noor Sabri and Salam Shaker, taking away more than 450 international caps worth of experience.
The hopes of the country now rest on Italy-based Ali Adnan's shoulders, with Abbas pinning the 22-year old left-sided utility down for big things.
"Ali and Dhurgham (Ismail) and Saad (Abdul-Adir) are young players that are very good," he said.
"To be honest, I'm happy and lucky to be with them because they're going to be big big stars.
"In the future we're going to have a very good team."
Could that translate to a shock victory in Perth or an even more surprising spot at the World Cup?
"There is always a chance for anybody in the world and any team in the world," Abbas says.
"We have a chance but we have to work very hard for it."