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Iraq, Saudi Arabia Cruise into Quarterfinals of AFC Youth Soccer
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Saudi Arabia and Iraq booked their place in the quarterfinals of the AFC Youth Championship from Group D with wins over Vietnam and Malaysia respectively in Bangalore, India Friday evening.

While the Saudis ran out 2-0 winners against Vietnam at the Bangalore Football Stadium, Iraq brushed aside Malaysia 3-0 at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium.

Iraq finished atop the group on goal difference over the Saudison seven points from two wins and one draw each. Vietnam (three points) failed to reach the knockout stage for the fourth time in a row while Malaysia ended up without opening their account.

On the mark for Saudi Arabia were captain Jufain Al Bishi (13) from the spot and Mohamed Al Bishi (90) while the Iraqi goalscorers were Mohamed Mansoor (55), Aqeel Hameed (81) and Alaa Khshen (83).

While Saudi coach Gilson Nunes fielded an unchanged side, his Vietnamese counterpart Long Le Tuan opted to bring in striker HiepPhuc Huynh and midfielder Dieu Ngoc Nguyen.

With qualification from the group poised on a knife's edge, both teams started cautiously.

Saudi had the first crack at goal, Naif Hazazi getting into a good position from the center before being divested of the ball. Vietnam replied two minutes later when Nguyen Quang Thi floated a cross into the Saudi area but Nguyen Ngoc Die failed to connect.

Hazazi sent a cross to striker Mohamed Al Sahlawi who was floored by Vietnamese defender Vo Huang Quang, and Al Bishi stroked the penalty home to put the Saudis ahead with 1-0.

Saudi goalkeeper Hussain Shaian blocked a goal-bound shot from Nguyen Ngoc Dieu in the 20th minute.

The Saudis had a penalty claim waved off in the 35th minute when a rampaging Ibrahim Shrahili was brought down by Hoang Trong Phu inside the area.

The match resumed under a steady drizzle. And in the 90th minute, Mohamed Al Bishi scored in a goalmouth melee sparked by Nasir Al Selimi's corner.

"I am happy with the way my boys played and the effort was very good," said Nunes. "The standard and level of youth teams is not consistent and changes from match to match. So I can say today was a good game."

On the quarterfinal against Japan, Nunes said he was under no illusions about the strength of the East Asians. "They are a very strong team and would have had four days' rest by the time we play in the quarterfinal. I am however confident that we can produce a good result."

Nunes said the key to winning lay in converting free kicks. "We need to convert these free kicks. Today we had seven corners and converted just one. Against Malaysia we got both goals through free kicks. That is what I expect from my boys."

Saudi Arabia play Japan in the first match at 1600 hours local time on November 6 at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium before DPRK clash with Iraq in the second match at 1900 hours.

(Xinhua News Agency November 4, 2006)

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