Iraq fail to force win
© AFP

Iraq warmed up for the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa with a 1-1 draw against Poland in a friendly international match. In their final match before tackling hosts South Africa in the tournament opener this Sunday, coach Bora Milutinovic's side were disappointed after Mahdi Kareem's second-half strike was cancelled out by Roger Guerreiro.

A small stadium in the heart of the Cape Flats in the south-west city was an odd setting for a match between two nations with few links to South Africa, and an attritional first half provided few chances. Around 2,000 spectators turned up, with a number of Polish and Iraqi flags fluttering, but they witnessed a quiet opening 45 minutes as neither side could register a shot on target.

Both coaches made many changes at half-time in a bid to try out different combinations and were rewarded with a sprightly start to the second half. Iraq central midfielder Nashat Akram sent his 30-yard free-kick just wide before the Asian champions made the breakthrough on 54 minutes.

Winger Hawar Mohammed, a constant menace in the second half, chipped a neat cross to the far post where Kareem half volleyed the ball into the net and put Iraq ahead. While the goal encouraged them, with Emad Mohammed shooting just wide moments later after jinking inside from the left, there was a revival from the Poles, who lost 1-0 to South Africa in Johannesburg last Saturday.

A shot from winger Slawomir Peszko was parried into the path of Marek Saganowski, only for the latter to clip wide under close attention from two defenders and Poland drew level after 71 minutes. Having displayed superb skill on the left, Brazil-born substitute Roger Guerreiro unleashed a vicious shot that was too strong for goalkeeper Noor Sabri. Both sides sought a winner as time ticked away, with Guerreiro coming closest through a deflected shot over the crossbar.