Vol. 5 Num 1104 Mon. July 09, 2007  

AFC Asian Cup 2007
Iraq rue dropped points

Coach Jorvan Vieira believes the loss of valuable points in a struggling draw with co-hosts Thailand may cost Iraq dear at the Asian Cup.

The Iraqis conceded a dubious sixth-minute penalty before equalizing through skipper Younis Mahmoud in the 31st minute but failed to deliver the knockout blow in a 1-1 draw at rainswept Rajamangala Stadium on Saturday.

Much has conspired against the Iraq team as they attempt to repeat their quarterfinal appearances at the last three Asian Cups, but they were hoping for all three points against Thailand.

While they kept their unbeaten Asian Cup record against the Thais intact, the team paid for not capitalising on a dominant first half where they fired 10 shots at the home goal.

Vieira knows that his team must now find points against Australia (July 13) and Oman (July 16) to once again reach the quarterfinals.

"I am a little bit disappointed because I think the game could have been decided in the first half but we didn't take advantage of that," said the Brazilian, who has been Iraq's coach for just two months.

"In the second half I think my team were finding it difficult as the pitch became heavy and we missed the chance to win.

"It was difficult and it could be very important for the rest of the competition, but football is like this."

The Iraqis, who inspired their strife-torn nation by making the final of the Asian Games football competition in December, had few chances in the second half and Thailand looked the more likely to score the winner.

Despite dropping points, Vieira stopped short of levelling criticism at his team, who have endured a difficult build-up to the tournament with war ravaging the country.

"I am quite satisfied, you cannot imagine the problems we have had to prepare this team," he said.

Vieira defended using Mahmoud as a lone striker with a packed midfield, saying the Qatar-based goalscorer was not supported enough.

Mahmoud took a heavy collision in the 35th minute and appeared to be holding his ribs as he slowly left the field at half-time.

"He couldn't play much better because the midfield were too late to support him and he couldn't do well without the support," Vieira said.

"We had to attack and defend at the same time. Everybody has to work together. We have to play win in the next match."

Mahmoud could be seen gesturing to his midfield teammates for support during the match.