Iraq’s head coach Zico of Brazil celebrates with his players during their 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying match against Jordan in Doha yesterday. Iraq won 1-0.
DOHA: Iraq resurrected their slim chances of making it to Brazil in 2014 with a 1-0 victory over Jordan in their Asian World Cup qualifier yesterday.
Winless in four matches prior to yesterday’s clash in Doha, Iraq were in serious danger of missing the quadrennial showpiece before an 86th minute strike from forward Hammadi Ahmed had them dreaming again.
Both Iraq and Jordan now have five points from as many matches and would need a miraculous set of results in Group B which also includes Asian powerhouses Japan and Australia
In a fast-paced match, Jordan held the upper hand but found the Iraqi goalkeeper Nour Sabri a tough nut to crack.
Sabri saved a 33rd minute strike by Abdulla Deeb and in the 59th minute, Hassan Abdel-Fattah, one of Jordan’s heroes in the win against Australia, inexplicably failed to score from less than six yards out, his weak shot finding the goalkeeper’s body and going out of play.
With time running out. a desperate Iraq gave their all in the final 30 minutes, but the Jordan goalkeeper Amer Shafi, too, was equal to the task, bringing off three saves off powerfully taken shots.
But Shafi could do nothing four minutes from time when Ahmed cracked in a left-footer from outside the penalty area into the net, much to the delight of the Iraqi expatriate crowd in the stadium.
The result brought relief to Iraq coach Zico who had dropped veterans Younus Mahmoud and Nashat Akram from the squad, a decision that surprised many because some of the other regulars like defenders Basem Abbas and Muthana Khalid and strikers Ala Abdulzehra and Salam Shaker were already unavailable because of injuries.
Jordan’s Iraqi coach Adnan Hamad was also handicapped by the suspension of Anas Bani Yaseen but the return of goalkeeper Amer Shafi and defender Basem Fathi from injuries gave the team some solidity.
Shafi surely made his presence felt by playing a stellar role in the goal before Ahmed’s late strike ruined what could have been a perfect day. AFP