Iraq resurrected their slim chances of making it to 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ with a 1-0 victory over Jordan in their qualifying match today. Winless in four matches prior to the clash in Doha, Iraq were in serious danger of missing the global finals before an 86th minute strike from forward Hammadi Ahmed kept their dream alive.
The result leaves Iraq five points from as many matches in Group B, one clear of Jordan, which draws them level on points with second-placed Australia, who have a game in hand, and Oman.
The result brought relief to Iraq coach Zico who had dropped veterans Younus Mahmoud and Nashat Akram from the squad. It was a decision that surprised many because other regulars, such as striker Ala Abdulzehra and defenders Basem Abbas, Muthana Khalid and Salam Shaker, were already unavailable through 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 made his presence felt by providing a stellar role in goal before Ahmed's late strike ruined what could have been a perfect day.
Goalkeepers on song
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, 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 Jordanian goalkeeper Amer Shafi, too, was equal to the task, pulling off three saves to deny powerful efforts on goal. But Shafi could do nothing four minutes from time when Ahmed cracked home a left-footer from outside the penalty area, much to the delight of the Iraqi expatriate crowd in the stadium.