Iraq books a place in Asian Cup

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS - By Zakaria Muhammed

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.

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