The sixth edition of the West Asian Football Federation Championship ended with a new name added to the list of previous winners. Few would have bet on their chances before the tournament began, but Kuwait sprung an upset by bringing Iran’s three-tournament reign to an end.
Putting the accent squarely on youth, Kuwait were able to raise the trophy 12 years after their last piece of silverware, the Gulf Cup of Nations crown they claimed in 1998. FIFA.com now looks back at what proved to be a fascinating competition held in the Jordanian capital of Amman.
Kuwait opted to look to the future by sending a squad mostly made up of players under the age of 23, but their lack of experience neither affected their ambitions nor damaged their chances. Despite also lacking adequate preparation time, the eventual victors quickly demonstrated their hunger by seeing off Syria 2-1 in their first outing and sealing an unexpected last-four berth by drawing with hosts Jordan.
Up against Yemen in the semi-finals, Kuwait recovered from falling a goal down to force extra time, after which they advanced via a penalty shoot-out. Goran Tufegdzic’s men were then left facing Iran in the showpiece and raced into a two-goal lead in the first half, before limiting the holders to a single strike after the break to end their first appearance in the competition with the title.
End of an era for Iran
Having tasted glory four times at this level and seen off all-comers in each of the last three editions, Iran went into the West Asian Football Federation Championship as clear favourites. Their opening assignment merely confirmed that billing as they swept aside Bahrain 3-0, and after drawing 2-2 with Oman to reach last four they downed reigning Asian champions Iraq 2-1.
All signs seemed to be pointing to a fourth straight success, but if Iran went into the final expecting to emerge on top they were quickly stung by Kuwait’s clinical finishing.
Disappointment for the hosts
Jordan could look forward to playing on home soil with a full-strength squad of players, yet not even the fervent support of their fans could rouse them in their meetings with Syria and Kuwait.
On both occasions they let leads slip away, drawing 1-1 with Syria after having gone ahead and then dropping another two points despite building a 2-0 advantage against Kuwait. Jordan had never previously exited the competition after the first round and they will need to make changes before the final phase of the 2011 AFC Asian Cup in Qatar.
The objective for most of the participants was to get the most they could out of the tournament while progressing as far as possible on the pitch. For Iraq, Bahrain, Oman, Yemen and Kuwait, that meant using the event as preparation and a chance to perfect a few routines ahead of the Gulf Cup of Nations at the end of the year.
Led by new coach Wolfgang Sidka, Iraq managed to finish top of their section courtesy of wins over Palestine and Yemen. Their hopes were nonetheless ended in the semi-finals as they committed too many errors against Iran to win through.
Oman’s tournament contained both good and bad, meanwhile, as the side coached by Claude Le Roy followed their loss to Bahrain by drawing with Iran. Bahrain left Jordan on similar terms, having made up for their heavy reverse at the hands of Iran with their impressive success against Oman.
Syria’s bid was undermined by changes to the coaching staff, not to mention the absence of players from Al Ittihad and Al Karama retained by their clubs for the AFC Cup. A lack of cohesion and confidence ultimately put paid to their hopes, while Palestine’s disappointing campaign could be explained by off-the-field issues.
Facts and figures
36 goals scored in 12 matches
5 goals registered by Yemen’s Ali Al-Nono, the tournament’s top scorer.
8 goals put away by Iran, the most prolific team in the competition.