Iraq need China win to stay in World Cup

June 13, 2008

BEIJING, June 13 (Reuters) - Iraq must beat China on Saturday and keep alive their hopes of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup for the sake of the people of the war-torn nation, according to Iraqi coach Adnan Hamad.

Iraq and China meet in Tianjin in their penultimate match in Group One of Asian qualifying with both needing a win as their dreams of progressing to the fourth round threaten to dissolve.

'Our people in Iraq very much need this win to make them happier, this is in the thoughts of all the players,' Hamad told reporters in Tianjin.

The Iraq team sparked huge celebrations in their troubled country by winning the Asian Cup against all the odds last July but made a poor start to the World Cup qualifying campaign.

They secured their first win in the group last weekend with a 1-0 defeat of Australia in Dubai, where they play their home matches because of the security problems in Iraq.

'We feel confident, especially after we won against Australia in the last match,' Hamad added. 'My team is now becoming better and we hope to win this match.'

Iraq were almost kicked out of the competition three weeks ago after its government dissolved the country's National Olympic Committee but the ban was lifted after FIFA were assured there would be no meddling in football.

'Before the Australia match there was a problem with the government, the federation and the FIFA decision that we were not allowed to play,' Hamad said.

'Now the situation is better and the players feel more confident.'

Iraq face Qatar in their final group match in Dubai on June 22.

Australia and Qatar top Group One with seven points each from four matches. Iraq are third with four points and China bottom with three.