Iraq advance over Vietnam

Iraq progress to their first ever Asian Cup semi-finals with a 2-0 win over Vietnam.

    Iraqi striker Younis Mahmoud celebrates the first of
    his two goals against Vietnam in Bangkok [AFP]

    Iraq are through to the semi-finals of the 2007 AFC Asian Cup after a convincing 2-0 win over a determined but outclassed Vietnam side at the Rajamangala National Stadium in Bangkok.

    After being knocked out at the quarter-final stage in their past three Asian Cups, the impressive Iraq have finally reached the last four after topping their group and clinically disposing of joint-hosts Vietnam.

    Star striker Younis Mahmoud scored both goals for his team, one after just two minutes and the second just after the hour mark to send Iraq to Kuala Lumpur and a semi-final showdown with either Iran or Korea Republic.

    The Golden Boot winner in the Qatar League this season could have had three, such was his power and influence in the Iraq forward line, but he has still netted three goals in four matches.

    Iraq opened the scoring when Vietnam gave away a free-kick to the left of the box, with midfielder Nashat Akram floating the ball to where Younis had drifted in unmarked to clip his header in at the near post.

    It was poor defending by Vietnam and the worst start possible, but Iraq's superior strength and height would be a telling factor throughout the match.

    Akram then blazed just wide when he picked the ball up in midfield and was allowed to run and shoot, before Vietnam striker Le Cong Vinh had the first real chance for his side in the 17th minute when Iraq defender Bassim Abbas had to block his shot out for a corner.

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    The sprightly Cong Vinh had another shot two minutes later but it was straight at Iraq keeper Noor Sabri.

    Nguyen Vu Phong, Vietnam's attacking midfielder, had a chance to equalise with seconds remaining in first half regulation time, but Iraq's Ahmed Abid Ali was there on the line to slide in and stop the shot.

    Iraq largely controlled the first half, but Vietnam did show glimpses of pace and brilliance, especially when they ran with the ball in their attacking third.

    Iraq too strong

    A Vu Phong free kick in the 50th minute was on target and had to be punched away by Sabri, before midfielder Le Tan Thai went close with a header just seconds later.

    Iraq hit back when Karrar Jassim drifted in from the right and unleashed a low shot which was well saved by Duong Hong Son in the 62nd minute.

    Younis had his second shortly after when Jassim was fouled just outside the top of the box in the 66th minute, with the Iraq captain guiding his free kick over Vietnam's small-in-stature wall, giving Hong Son no chance.

    Tan Thai then fizzed a shot wide with fifteen minutes to go, as Vietnam were reduced to shooting from distance.

    Younis almost had his hat-trick in the 77th minute when Mahdi Karim sent in a pinpoint cross which the Al Gharafa striker headed downwards towards goal, with Hong Son making a low save.

    Vietnam's dream run is over, but the young team, currently ranked 117th in the world and 18th in the Asian confederation, with an average age of 23 years, can hold their heads high as they outperformed some more fancied opponents and finished as the best placed host-nation.

    For Iraq, the dream continues.  Much has been said about their exploits on the football field overcoming adversities back home, and a tantalising semi-final clash with either Iran or Korea Republic is now on the cards.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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