BANGKOK, July 13 (Reuters) - Iraq pulled off a stunning 3-1
upset win over Australia at the Asian Cup on Friday to leave
the tournament favourites in danger of an embarrassing early
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
totally outplayed by a team who had to train and play
qualifiers in neutral Jordan because of the war in their
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.
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 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.