Sportsworld’s Rahul Pathak finds an unlikely mix of players in Iraq’s football family.
|Flag bearers: Jassim Gholam (R) and team
members of Iraq celebrate [AFP]
Iraq pulled off a stunning 3-1 upset win over Australia at the Asian Cup on to leave the tournament favourites on the verge of an embarrassing early exit.
Nashat Akram scored from a free kick in the first half after a howler from goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, and Hawar Mulla Mohammad and Karrar Jassim Mohammad finished off the Australians after the interval.
The Socceroos had briefly drawn level through when their captain Mark Viduka scored early in the second half, but were thoroughly outclassed by a team who had to train and play qualifiers in neutral Jordan because of the war in their
The Australians, making their first appearance at the Asian Cup and regarded among the title favourites, can still advance to the next phase if they win their last pool match against co-hosts Thailand on Monday.
They would also need a favourable result in the other match between Iraq and Oman.
The Australians had promised to atone for their lacklustre display in Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Oman but those promises looked pretty hollow when they gifted Iraq the lead in the 21st minute.
Akram delivered a seemingly innocuous free kick straight at Schwarzer but instead of catching the ball, the Middlesbrough keeper was distracted by the presence of Saleh Sadir and watched in horror as the ball floated past him into the net.
Tim Cahill, who scored in stoppage time to earn the Australians a 1-1 draw against Oman, was introduced into the attack after halftime and his presence had an immediate impact.
The Australians equalised within two minutes of the re-start when Brett Emerton curled the ball into the box for his skipper, who climbed above two defenders to head the ball past Noor Sabri.
The Australians began to play with more fluency and cohesion in the second half but their eagerness to attack was undone by sloppy defending.
Akram slid the ball between two defenders to Hawar Mulla Mohammad who slammed the ball pas Schwarzer to put his team 2-1 ahead after 58 minutes and Karrar Jassim Mohammed tapped in the final goal five minutes from the end of regular time after Mahdi Karim’s strike had been palmed away by Schwarzer.
The Iraqis, who have reached the quarter-finals at the last three Asian Cups, moved to the top of the Group A standings with four points from two games.
Thailand also have four points, while Oman and Australia have a point each.