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Sunday, July 29, 2007

AFC Asian Cup Final: Iraq 1 x Saudi Arabia 0

With the weight of their entire country on their shoulders, Iraq, in a superb display, defeated Saudi Arabia in front of 60,000 in Jakarta, and no doubt, millions of viewers around the world. From the start, Iraq controlled possession, attacked relentlessly, and were very tight in defense (they only conceded two goals in this tournament). Several near misses, along with some fine saves by the Saudi Arabian keeper, Yasser Al Mosailem, kept the game drawn at the half-time break.

In the second half, led by their inspirational captain, Younis Mahmoud Khalef, who was also their lone striker, the Iraqis continued to press forward. They were rewarded in the 71st minute. A perfectly taken corner kick was headed deftly into the goal by Younis. The neutral Indonesian crowded erupted into cheers. Younis also was the leading scorer in the tournament with four goals, and earned $25,000 from AIG as the most valuable player. Each Iraqi player earned a bonus of $10,000 for their efforts, which was announced after the game by their Prime Minister, Mr. Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. After the game, the Iraqi coach, Mr. Jorvan Vieira from Brasil, resigned.

This historic victory shows the power of soccer. In no other sport do eleven men or women truly represent, or become for 90 minutes, the hopes and dreams of their actual countries.

"Iraq captain Younis Mahmoud said the key to his team's success had been to block out the problems in their homeland. None of the Iraqi players have been untouched by the war and although the squad is made up of Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish players, they have formed a special bond. 'All the players have faced some difficult times but we know we can bring happiness to the Iraqi people,' he said. 'We share a great responsibility to bring happiness to the Iraq people through football so we always just concentrate on the match. 'We love football and we love our country and we are ready to defend it.' " (1)

As they were presented to FIFA President Joseph Blatter, the Iraqis began to sing, "Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole..." The national anthem of soccer.
Well done, Iraq.

To view a video of the goal, please click here. (Courtesy of 101 Great Goals).

To read more about the tournament, please click here.

Reference

(1) ESPNSoccernet: Iraq v. Saudi Preview, 27 July 2007.

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