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Saturday, July 28, 2007

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, an no doubt, millions of viewers around the world. From the start, Iraq controlled possession, and attacked relentlessly. 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 captain, Younes 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 Younes. The neutral Indonesian crowded erupted into cheers.

This historic victory shows the power of soccer. In no other sport do eleven men or women truly represent, or become for 90 minutes, 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)

Well done, Iraq.

Reference

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

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