US media has touted the success of Iraq's under-23 team as it beat Portugal 4-2 and Costa Rica 2-0 and sailed through to the semifinals after bringing Australia down 1-0 on 21 August.

However, the sudden interest in the team - particularly from the US Republican re-election campaign platform - has irked some of its members.

"Iraq as a team does not want Mr. Bush to use us for the presidential campaign," Iraqi player Salih Sadir told SI.com.

"He can find another way to advertise himself."

Sadir has so far scored two goals for the team.

But some players went further: substitute Ahmad Manajid, who played as a midfielder in Wednesday's match against Morocco (1-2) told the monthly sports magazine "How will he meet his god having slaughtered so many men and women?"

"He has committed so many crimes."

Defending Iraq

Manajid went on to say "I want to defend my home. If a stranger invades America and the people resist, does that mean they are terrorists?"

"Everyone [in Falluja] has been labelled a terrorist. These are all lies. Falluja people are some of the best people in Iraq."

According to Sports Illustrated, one of Manajid's cousin was a resistance fighter who was killed by US occupation forces. He allegedly told SI.com that he would have become a resistance fighter had he not been on the Olympic team.

Iraq's team is to meet Paraguay
in the semifinals on 24 August

Iraq's second coach, who filled the gap left behind when German manager Bernd Stange left the team due to security concerns, told SI.com that he believed US occupation forces destroyed everything in his country.

"My problems are not with the American people," Adnan Hamad told the sports monthly.

"They are with what America has done in Iraq: destroy everything. The American army has killed so many people in Iraq. What is freedom when I go to the [national] stadium and there are shootings on the road?"