Iraq books a place in Asian Cup
China was close to being knocked out of the qualifying round at the last hurdle as they trailed 3-0 to Iraq and rivals Lebanon led 5-1 against Thailand. But a successful Chinese penalty in the 73rd minute, followed by a 76thminute Thai goal cut their deficit and swung the final qualification spot China>s way.
Iraq’s decisive match against China was played at the Shariqa Stadium in the UAE on March 5. Iraqi striker Younis Mahmoud shone in the game and scored two goals for his team in the first half.
China’s qualification hopes subsided as Ali Adnan made the result 3 for Iraq in the second half. But substitute Zhang’s crucial finish from the penalty spot 15 minutes later meant Lebanon’s 52 victory over Thailand in Group B meant China progressed alongside Group C runners-up Iraq as Alain Perrin’s side claimed their place in the March 26 draw as the best third-place finisher across all five groups.
“We won with a big result and I was confident we would qualify because we had fighting players who managed to beat a strong opponent thanks to their experience. We controlled the first half and ended it with a good lead,” said Iraq coach Ha- keem Shakir.
Shakir added, “In the second half, China pulled a goal back and that was natural as our players were playing more defensively. However, we were the better side and we deserved to qualify for the finals where we can hopefully continue our good performances.”
China coach Perrin shed light on the match, saying “We played the match with two souls. The first one was on the pitch and the second was outside it as we monitored the results from the other matches to see if we could finish as the best thirdplaced team in the qualifiers and this is what happened,”
Perrin admitted that Iraq controlled the first half and were able to score two goals, but he thinks China were the better side after half-time. “We pulled a goal back and could have scored more. We must now work more and make some changes for a better future,” he noted.
The Asian Cup will be one of the biggest sporting events hosted in Australia, with a potential television audience of 2.5 billion people.
The draw for the tournament will take place at the Sydney Opera House on March 26.
The 2015 Asian Cup qualifiers are Australia, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Uzbekistan, Qatar, Iran, Kuwait, Jordan, Iraq and China. The winners of the AFC Challenge Cup, held in May, will also qualify.
Ali Adnan celebrates winning its match against China 3-1 at the Asian Cup Qualifiers.