Wednesday, July 29, 2009

29 July 2007 - The Boys From Baghdad

On 29 July 2007, Iraq defeated Saudi Arabia 1-0 before a crowd of 60,000 at the Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta to claim their first AFC Asian Cup title. The 2007 tournament was co-hosted by four countries—Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Organized by the Asian Football Confederation, the Asian Cup was first played in 1956 and is usually played every four years. The AFC scheduled the 2007 tournament, however, only three years after the previous tournament in order to move the Cup off the same cycle as the Summer Olympics and the UEFA European Championship.

In the group stage, Iraq drew against Thailand (1-1) and Oman (0-0). In between, they beat newcomers Australia—who had just joined the AFC in January 2006—by the score of 3-1. Iraq advanced as group leaders, with Australia progressing as second-place finishers.

In the first knockout round, Iraq eliminated Vietnam (2-0), setting up a semi-final match against tournament favorites South Korea. The Korean side had advanced by defeating Iran on penalties, 0-0 (4-2), and forced the semi-final into penalties before falling to Iraq, 0-0 (4-3). (South Korea proceeded to win the third-place match, again on penalties, by defeating holders Japan, 0-0 (6-5)).

In the Final, Iraqi forward and captain Younis Mahmoud scored the match's only goal in the 72nd minute, giving the Iraqis the title. It was Iraq's first major trophy since the beginning of the Gulf War.

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