The Whites take the field tomorrow at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium with their dreams of qualifying from the third-and-final round in danger.
They were humiliated 3-0 in Saudi Arabia last month to sit fourth, with only the top two automatically making Russia and third spot fighting to contest the inter-confederation play-off.
That result heaped pressure on coach Mahdi Ali and his troops. For Al Ahli’s Abbas, he was aware failure to triumph against opponents who sit one place and three points behind them in Group B could end the ambitions of the ‘Golden Generation’.
“I think it will not be an easy game,” said the 31-year-old, who excelled during Wednesday’s 2-0 warm-up win against Bahrain. “Even their (Iraq’s) players play in Europe and they have experience.
“It is going to be a tough game for us. We have to win, we don’t have a choice.
“It was hard for us to lose 3-0, especially in Saudi Arabia. We hope in the next game. We need to win and hope to win. We hope to be better, Inshallah.”
The shameful late capitulation in the Kingdom has caused question marks to intensify around Ali. Another poor result is likely to send the national set-up into turmoil and terminate his groundbreaking four-year tenure.
When asked about how the squad was dealing with such pressure, Abbas declared it was a positive influence.
He said: “It is not like pressure, you know. When you need to win it is pressure, it is not like someone is pushing you and forcing you to win.
“It is a pressure to us to play the game. But we hope to win and we have to be better.”
After injury ruled him out of last month’s 3-1 victory against Thailand and the embarrassment across the border, Abbas enjoyed a storming return to the Whites set-up last week.
His driving run from deep set-up Ismail Matar’s opener, with another foray forward in the second half ending with a rasping shot into the bottom corner of Sayed Nazar’s goal.
Such performances could lead to a shake-up which would see struggling Ahli team-mate Abdulaziz Haikal dropped at right-back, Abdulaziz Sanqour move across and a space open up for Abbas on the left flank.
“I don’t know,” was the latter-mentioned’s phlegmatic response when quizzed about his chances of making the first XI. “It is the coach’s choice, in the end. The tactic is different than the Bahrain game. Maybe I start, maybe I don’t.”