DUBAI, June 7 (Reuters) - Iraq rekindled memories of their fairytale win in last year's Asian Cup with a stunning 1-0 victory over Australia in their World Cup qualifier on Saturday.
Iraq, who were almost kicked out of the competition two
weeks ago after a dispute between their government and world
governing body FIFA, upset their more fancied rivals when Emad
Rida scored in the 28th minute.
Rida's superbly taken goal gave the Iraqis their first win
of the qualifying campaign while handing Australia their first
loss and leaving the Asian Group One standings wide open with
two rounds to play.
Australia and Qatar head the table with seven points each
ahead of Iraq with four and China with three. Only the top two
will advance to the next and final stage of qualifying.
'It was a very unlucky goal. We were in complete control and
just waiting for the game to open up because Iraq had to win,'
Australia coach Pim Verbeek said in a televised interview.
'Once they scored, we had to change the way we played but I
think my boys did everything they could and we have to give
credit to the Iraqi team. They have some very intelligent
Neither side was able to create many real clear chances in
the stifling humidity but Rida, who hit the bar in Iraq's
unlucky 1-0 loss to Australia in Brisbane last week, found the
net when he curled a 25 metre kick over the head of Mark
Schwarzer into the top of the net.
Schwarzer conceded a similar goal in Australia's loss to
Iraq in the pool phase of last year's Asian Cup but Verbeek said
he could not attach any blame to his goalkeeper this time.
'He saved us in China, he saved us last week with some
fantastic saves so how can you blame a goalkeeper like that,'
the Dutchman said.
'We made it difficult for ourselves and now we have to win
one game out of the next two.'
The Australians, who were without some of their top players
including Mark Viduka, Lucas Neill and Tim Cahill, created a
rare chance in the second half when Harry Kewell back heeled the
ball to Brett Holman but his shot lacked power and was easily
saved by Noor Sabri.
Iraq overcame seemingly insurmountable odds last July to win
the Asian Cup and spark rare celebrations in their troubled
homeland but their hopes of qualifying for the World Cup seemed
doomed when they were temporarily banned from playing.
FIFA suspended them last month in response to their
government's decision to dissolve its National Olympic Committee
and only agreed to lift the ban after the government assured
them they were not meddling in football.