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Rediff.com  » Sports » Iraq beat S Korea to enter final

Iraq beat S Korea to enter final

July 25, 2007 20:37 IST

Iraq reached their first Asian Cup football final on Wednesday night, beating South Korea 4-3 on penalties in a pulsating semi-final that ended goalless after extra-time.

Noor Sabri was Iraq's hero when he saved Korea's fourth spot-kick from Yeom Ki-hun. After Ahmed Menajed had made it 4-3 to the West Asians, Korean Kim Jung-woo hit the post to send the Iraqi players into raptures.

"It was a great game," Iraq coach Jorvan Vieira told a news conference. "The game was 50:50 but we missed more opportunities than them. We were tired too, but Korea were more tired than us."

It was the vanquished side's second penalty shootout in four days, having overcome Iran 4-2 in Sunday's quarter-final after another goalless 120 minutes.

"We are all very, very disappointed," Korea coach Pim Verbeek said.

"In the first half we forgot to play football and use the spaces. Second half we played much better but we were not sharp in the final third and sometimes not lucky."

"I knew extra-time would be tough for us after Sunday."

CONFIDENT MOOD

Iraq, who began the tournament as outsiders after having to train and play qualifiers in neighbouring countries because of the war in their homeland, will meet either Saudi Arabia or Japan in Sunday's final in Jakarta.

The second semi-final takes place later on Wednesday night in Hanoi.

The Iraqis went into Wednesday's match in confident mood having topped qualifying Group A in which they beat a fancied Australia.

Korea, who last won the Asian Cup in 1960, were runners-up in Group D behind Saudi Arabia, but had shown great resilience in overcoming Iran in the quarters.

Verbeek's team produced their performance of the tournament against Iraq, but again their three-man attack failed to produce a goal for the second straight match.

Showing brilliant individual skills, Iraq dominated the first half but 2002 World Cup semi-finalists Korea hit back strongly after the break, though they wasted several chances to knock Iraq out of their stride.

WEARY LEGS

Despite weary legs tiring further on a sodden pitch, both sides continued to work hard in extra time and their willingness to attack resulted in tense goalmouth action at both ends.

Iraq had a great chance to snatch it in the 104th minute when Hawar Mulla Mohammed found himself in front of an open goal but his shot crashed against the inside of Lee Woon-jae's right-hand post before being cleared.

Nine minutes later, Mulla whipped in a volley from a narrow angle across Lee's goal but noone was there to apply the killer touch and, after 120 minutes of attacking soccer had failed to produce a goal, the teams were ushered to the penalty spot for the shootout.

It was 3-3 when Noor dived to his left to save from Yeom. The pressure was then on Kim after Menajed had scored for Iran, but the Nagoya Grampus Eight midfielder slammed his shot against the post to hand victory to a jubilant Iraq.

Source:
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