Iraq, Australia set to refuel rivalry
Holders Iraq and favourites Australia clash for a a semi-final spot at the AFC Asian Cup on tomorrow with both sides too focused on the task ahead to care about any old scores that need settling. Iraq shocked Australia 3-1 in the group stages four years ago before lifting the war-torn country's first ever continental crown by edging three-time champions Saudi Arabia in the final.
"It's history. Forget what happened before. We just have to do it again," Iraq's German coach Wolfgang Sidka said. "We start with the first whistle and we end with the last whistle. We'll take advantage of every chance to score," he added, simply putting his side's plan in two words - "To win."
Australia captain Lucas Neill said: "We're not going to rely on the history of other results going into this game. Our mental approach is this is 90 minutes of a game that we will start 0-0.
"We're confident with the way we've trained and with the way we've performed. Tomorrow we'll beat Iraq. We know that if we win this game we'll be here to the end. So here's a lot to play for."
Australia coach, another German Holger Osieck, shrugged off injury worries about Everton's Tim Cahill and other players. "I can assure you that our boys will be ready. They want to have a good game," the coach said, adding that Cahill, who has been treated for a knock on his thigh, "will be definitely on the pitch."
"Our players look good. They are sharp. They want to have a good game," he said, adding that the Iraqis were "well organised and have good individual players. I don't know their weaknesses. You can only find them in the game," said Osieck.
He hoped Australia would be able to score more than in the group stage. They beat Bahrain 1-0 and drew 1-1 with rivals South Korea although they whitewashed the tournament's whipping boys India 4-0. "I want to see a couple more goals going in."
Iraq also found it hard to ruffle the net. They lost 2-1 to three-time champions Iran in their opener in Doha to get their title defence off to a poor start and needed an injury-time goal to beat the United Arab Emirates 1-0 before edging North Korea 1-0. Sidka admitted Australia, who defected to the Asian Football Confederation from Oceania after the 2006 FIFA World Cup™, would be tough to beat.
"They have a lot of professional players with most of them in the English Premier League," he said. "They are tall, tough and physically strong."
But he said his team was filled with the "right level of confidence". The two sides last faced off in two World Cup qualifiers in 2008, resulting in one win each. Sidka pointed out Iraq's 98th place in the world rankings compared while Australia's 26th. "There's a big gap between us. We have to narrow the gap tomorrow."
Sidka, a former Werder Bremen player, played down the billing of the match being a battle of two German coaches. He said they had not met in person either as players or coaches before coming to Doha but that "we know each other and respect each other."
"He'll take us seriously (in the match) and we'll take them seriously. And after the match. we'll have a handshake."