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Iraq Claim Most Shocking Win over Favorite Australia
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The most shocking thing at the AFC Asian Cup happened in Bangkok on Friday when Iraq stunned the biggest favorite Australia with a convincing 3-1 victory in a Group A match.

The totally unexpected defeat pushed the Socceroos to the verge of being eliminated from the tournament after claiming a single point from two matches. The Aussies must beat co-hosts Thailand in their last group match with enough goals.

Iraq had acquired a favorable situation with 4 points under their belt, a draw against Oman would see them through to the next stage.

Iraq took the lead in the 23rd minute when Nashat Akram sent the ball home via a freekick pass.

Although Australia equalized soon after the interval, a determined Iraq controlled the game and scored twice in the 60th and 86th minute to seal the victory.

Australian players were increasingly frustrated and defender Lucas Neill was sent off in the closing stages.

"It's very disappointing. Most European-based players are on holidays, and are not quite ready for competition......and we have to come to this extreme condition, humidity problem," said Australian coach Graham Arnold after the match.

"We still have one opportunity to beat Thailand, and take a look at head to head," he added.

Iraq's coach Jorvan Vieira praised his team. "The congratulation must go to my players and staff, not only for me. It's not magic," he said.

In Group B, Japanese striker Naohiro Takahara scored a brace to help the defending champions crush the United Arab Emirates (UAE) 3-1. The latter, unfortunately, became the first team out of the 16 squads to be sent packing.

In the 22nd minute, Takahara, who scored 11 goals for Frankfurt in Bundesliga last season, defeated UAE goalkeeper Majed Maqdemi with a blitz header just outside the box after latching onto a pinpoint cross from the left wing.

Four minutes later, the unmarked Japanese striker doubled the lead by a sudden low shot which made the UAE goalie stand still.

Before the break, Japanese midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura extended the lead by converting a penalty kick after the UAE goalie committed a foul in the 39th minute.

UAE forward Saeed Alkas dealt a powerful shot after receiving along spectacular defence-splitting pass from his teammate in the 67th minute, beating Japanese goalie Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi and netting the consolation goal.

Japanese players frequently laid a siege to the box of the UAE, forcing the UAE goalkeeper made several fine saves.

So far, Japan, with four points from two matches, overtook co-host Vietnam, who also had four points, to top the group B with more goals. Qatar is in the third place with two ties while the UAE is at the bottom with two losses.

Japan will take on co-host Vietnam, and the UAE will play Qatar on Monday.

(Xinhua News Agency July 14, 2007)

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