Saturday, October 09, 2004

End of Iraq's dream

Johannesburg, by Maithem Al Anbari

The exit of Iraq’s hard-tackling centreback Ali Hussein Rahima led to the downfall of the former champions in their Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Youth Championship quarter-final match against Syria at the Perak Stadium on Sunday.

Ali was sacked in the 35th minute for an off-the-ball incident on Syria’s Majed Al Haj. Incidentally, Majed, who had Ali close on his heels from the kick off, went on to score the solitary goal of the match in the 74th minute.

It was the first goal four-time champions Iraq had conceded in the tournament and with it ended their dreams of getting among the four Asian sides to qualify for the Youth World Cup Finals in Amsterdam next year.

A dejected Iraqi coach Hadi Mutnash said: “It is very negative to lose a key defender so soon into the game. It affected our play as most of the players didn’t feel comfortable and suffered a drop in confidence after Ali’s exit,” he said.

But Hadi conceded that Syria were the better organised side.