Iraq, Iran book their places in knockout phase of AFC Asian Cup

Iraq, Iran book their places in knockout phase of AFC Asian Cup

QLNews
By QLNews

Iraq booked their place in the last 16 of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup as two first half goals from Ayman Hussein earned Jesus Casas’ side a 2-1 win over four-time champions Japan in the second round of Group E matches at Education City Stadium on Friday.

Hussein netted with headers at either end of a first half dominated by a vibrant Iraqi side, who rekindled memories of the nation’s historic 2007 AFC Asian Cup-winning side in front of a vociferous, partisan crowd.

The win means Iraq, who have six points after starting their campaign with a 3-1 victory over Indonesia, are assured of finishing top after Indonesia defeated Vietnam 1-0 in the group’s second match on Friday.

Iraq play Vietnam in their final group game on Wednesday with Japan facing Indonesia for the second automatic spot in the Round of 16. 

Meanwhile, Iran beat Hong Kong 1-0 in a Group C match at the Khalifa International Stadium. The win helped them top the group with six points and qualify for the knockout stages.

Iran’s goal came through Mehdi Ghayedi in the 24th minute. The player’s powerful right-footed shot from the left side of the box went into the bottom right corner of the net.

Earlier, Iraq had established the foundations of their success early in the game, unsettling the Japanese with their industry in midfield and reaped the rewards inside the first five minutes.

Takumi Minamino’s misplaced pass from the left touchline in the fourth minute fell at the feet of Ali Jasim, and his long-range effort was unconvincingly slapped away by Zion Suzuki.

Less than a minute later, the Iraqis were ahead and again Suzuki was involved, the goalkeeper palming Jasim’s centre squarely onto the head of Hussein, and he powered the ball into the top corner.

The Japanese were rattled and took time to find their rhythm. Hiroki Ito’s weak shot from close range was straight into the arms of Jalal Hassan while Wataru Endo’s attempted overhead kick was well off target.

In the fourth minute of the first half’s added time, Ahmed Yahya drove past Yukinari Sugawara near the right touchline before surging into the penalty area to deliver a cross that Hussein headed in after outmuscling Shogo Taniguchi in the six-yard box.

While Japanese captain Endo scored with a header three minutes into injury time to give the Japanese hope, Iraq’s win was well deserved.

Indonesia breathed new life into their AFC Asian Cup campaign after edging Vietnam 1-0 at the Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium, thanks to Asnawi Mangkualam’s first half penalty.

The victory took Indonesia to third in the standings, level on points with Japan ahead of their meeting on Wednesday, as the Garudas ended a six-match winless run against Southeast Asian rivals Vietnam, whose hopes suffered a body blow.

Both teams opted to make two changes each with Nguyen Quang Hai and Nguyen Van Tung coming in for Vietnam while Sandy Walsh and Egy Maulana Vikri were given a starting opportunity for Indonesia.

It was Indonesia who started stronger, Ivar Jenner putting Rafael Struick through inside the first minute, but goalkeeper Nguyen Filip was equal to the shot then minutes later, Struick again with a shot on the turn that just went past the post.

Slowly but surely Vietnam’s midfield trio of Quang Hai, Nguyen Tuan Anh and Nguyen Thai Son began to see more of the ball.

Three minutes before the break, Indonesia took a deserved lead when captain Asnawi Mangkualam tucked away a spot-kick after Nguyen Thanh Binh was penalised for pulling Struick’s jersey.

Vietnam head coach Philippe Troussier made two changes at the start of the second half with Khuat Van Khang and Le Pham Thanh Long replacing Pham Tuan Hai and Thai Son respectively, and it almost paid dividends immediately, with Vietnam raining shots at Indonesia’s goal.

Play was stopped for almost five minutes at the 64th minute mark after Jordi Amat suffered a blow to the head following an aerial tussle with Van Tung, with the Indonesia captain eventually forced to be replaced by Rizky Ridho.

To their credit, Vietnam continued to push for the equaliser, but luck wasn’t on their side and the UAE 2019 quarter-finalists even went down to 10 men in stoppage time after Thanh Long picked up his second yellow in the game.

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