Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Iraq miss out on medal

Thessaloniki, Greece, FootballAsia.com

Iraq’s attempt to win Asia’s first footballing Olympic medal since 1968 came to a disappointing end on Friday when Adnan Hamd’s men were beaten by Italy in the third place play-off.

The defeat means Iraq, who reached the quarter-finals of the Asian Cup at the end of July, have nothing to show for an adventure which captured the hearts of millions of people around the world.

After losing to Paraguay in the semi-final, Iraq needed to beat Italy to equal Japan’s bronze medal-winning performance, achieved at the 1968 Mexico Olympics, but an early headed goal from Alberto Gilardino, who plays for Parma in Serie A, proved the difference between the two teams.

Hamd took the decision to drop Younis Mahmoud and Emad Mohammed for the final game, but their absence did not seem to trouble the Asian Cup quarter-finalists, who had several chances to level the scores in the opening 15 minutes.

Striker Razzaq Farhan had the first real chance but the he shot straight at Italy goalkeeper Ivan Pelizzoli when through on goal.

A minute later, Qusai Munir’s header was parried by Pelizzoli and the follow-up was smashed against the bar.

Hawar Mulla Mohammed was denied by the woodwork on 18 minutes but it was the Italian keeper who proved the difference between the two sides, especially in the second half.

Italy could have doubled their lead in the 69th minute when Gilardino capitalised on an error by Haidar Jabar before lobbing ahead Iraq keeper Noor Sabri but the ball bounced inches wide to keep Iraqi hopes alive.

Hamd threw on Emad and Mahmoud but it was not to be as Iraq’s hopes of winning their second Olympic medal came to naught.

“In view of the circumstances, reaching the semi final is a major achievement," Hamd said after the game.

“We wanted to at least get the bronze to bring happiness for our people but although I think we were the better team, in the end we could not.

Source: Footballasia