Easy does it for Iran, Iraq
Defending champions Iraq completed the quarter-final line-up at the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2011 when they downed Korea DPR 1-0 to secure second place in Group D. Finishing above them were neighbours Iran, who maintained their 100 per cent record with a comprehensive defeat of United Arab Emirates.
The 2007 winners now go forward to meet Australia in a potentially intriguing last-eight tie, while the Iranians take on Korea Republic, who finished second in Group C behind the Socceroos.
Iraq 1-0 Korea DPR, Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
Goal: Karrar Jassim 22
Having lost to Iran and earned a fortunate win over UAE, the holders were anxious to rekindle the spirit that swept them to the continental title four years ago. Exhibiting their superiority from the off, the Iraqis almost took the lead on 17 minutes when Mustafa Karim struck the bar from a corner. They were not to be denied for long, however, with Jassim tucking the ball home after Korea DPR goalkeeper Ri Myong Guk had parried Mustafa Karim’s shot. Easing off in the second half, Wolfgang Sidka’s men allowed their opponents back into contention. Yet despite the odd scare for keeper Mohammed Gassid, they held on for a welcome triumph.
Iran 3-0 United Arab Emirates, Qatar SC Stadium, Doha
Goals: Arash Afshin 70, Mohammad Nouri 83, Walid Abbas 90 og
With his side having already secured top spot in the section, Iran coach Afshin Ghotbi rang the changes for their final group outing, giving his second string a run out. Despite needing a win to have any chance of going through, UAE failed to muster much of a threat in a cagey encounter and fell behind when Afshin struck 20 minutes from time. Latching on to a fine Khosro Heydari pass, Nouri doubled their advantage before Walid Abbas compounded the Emirati side’s misery by putting through his own net in stoppage time.
Karrar Jassim, Iraq
The midfielder’s match-winning goal was not the only highlight of his fine all-round display against the North Koreans. A star with Al Wakra in the Qatari league, Jassim also teed up Mustafa Karim for a first-half header that came back off the bar and nearly added to his account with two dangerous drives after the interval.
9 - The number of points Iran amassed in the group stage after winning all three of their games, the only team to do so at Qatar 2011. Nine was also the number of changes their coach Afshin Ghotbi made for the meeting with UAE.
A hard knock
Younis Mahmoud missed out on the celebrations that followed the only goal of Iraq’s win over Korea DPR. While team-mate Karrar was firing his side to another three points, the striker, who plays his club football for Al Gharrafa in Qatar, was writhing in pain on the ground, the result of a tackle by Ri Kwang Chon.
Korea DPR and United Arab Emirates have not one but two things in common. As well as exiting the competition without winning a game, the departing duo both failed to score, having cancelled each other out in a goalless draw and then coming up short in respective defeats to Iran and Iraq.
UAE defender Walid Abbas ensured his name would go down in tournament history when he scored his second own goal of the group phase. As well as scoring at the wrong end against the Iranians, the Al Shabab man suffered the same fate in the 1-0 loss to Iraq.
What they said
“I am very happy with our third straight win and with the way we’ve played, especially against UAE, with a lot of new players coming in for their first international. I'm really looking forward to playing Korea Republic in the next round. I think it will be a great match,” Afshin Ghotbi, Iran coach.
“We deserved our win today. The important thing is that we’ve now got the opportunity to play Australia in the quarters. We can celebrate victory today but we’ll have to start getting ready tomorrow. I’ve got a lot of confidence in this team and I feel we can go all the way,” Wolfgang Sidka, Iraq coach.