Qatar completed a remarkable turnaround of fortunes on Sunday to dump out Iraq and qualify for the final phase of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ qualifying from Asia. A brilliant Syed Bechir header in the 77th minute from a Hussein Yasser cross gave Jorge Fossati's team a 1-0 victory, which put them level on 10 points with Australia in Group 1.
"We were always confident about beating Iraq because we have had favourable results against them in the past," Fossati told reporters after the match. "Many Iraqi players play in the Qatar League so we know their game very well," he added.
The result came as a disappointment for the Iraqis, who look up to their football stars to bring them cheer, considering the violence back home. "This is a very sad day for us. We needed just a draw to qualify, but that header by Syed Bechir caught us napping," said Adnan Hamad, who is in his fifth stint as Iraqi coach.
Qatar had 62 percent of the ball possession in the first half, but they could not translate their supremacy into goals because of tardy passing and poor finishing. Bechir -- who played the full 90 minutes, unlike previous games when he was brought on as a substitute in the second half -- was a constant thorn in the Iraqi side, along with Sebestien Quintana.
Several times the Iraqi defence was tested by Bechir and Quintana and the Iraqi goalkeeper Noor Sabri was constantly agitated by the failure of his defenders to keep the rival strikers at bay.
Completing the double
The match gathered pace and purpose in the second half with Yasser's speed on the wings taking the Iraqis by surprise and energising the Qatari team. It was Yasser who set up the winning goal when he made a pacy run on the left flank and crossed to Bechir, whose header from the centre of the penalty area hit the right post before rolling into the net.
Iraq introduced star striker Younis Mahmood after that but he failed to make any impression as Qatar held on to their lead, to the joy of their supporters who were flown into Dubai free of charge by the national football federation.
Qatar have now completed the double on Iraq in FIFA World Cup qualifying, having beaten them 2-0 in Doha last March.
Australia lost their last match against China on Saturday, but still topped the group by virtue of a better goal difference with Qatar finishing second. The 10-team final qualifying tournament will begin in September, the draw for which will be made in Kuala Lumpur later this week.
Qatar, who have not conceded a goal against any team in the group except Australia, have never played in the FIFA World Cup finals. They came close in 1998 when they narrowly lost to Saudi Arabia in the final qualifying game.