Iraq rue ‘missed opportunity’ after Gulf Cup defeat to the UAE

Iraq players react after losing a penalty shootout to the UAE in the Gulf Cup semifinal in Kuwait. (AFP)
Updated 03 January 2018
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Iraq rue ‘missed opportunity’ after Gulf Cup defeat to the UAE

LONDON: The experience Iraq possess and the talent in their squad they should have won the Gulf Cup. There should be no excuses. The cup was there for the taking for Basim Qasim’s side.
From there Iraq looked as if they were set to power onto the final and win a first Gulf Cup in 30 years but they fell at the last hurdle. UAE and Iraq were the two best teams in the tournament and this really should have been the final.
It had all the hallmarks of the 2013 final in Manama, where Iraq were again defeated by the team from the Emirates, and again after extra-time. They will be sick of the sight of the UAE. This time the exit was much crueller as it came via penalties. The Iraqi sports media lauded its heroic players and hailed the side after the heartbreaking loss five years ago, pronouncing that they “may had lost a Gulf Cup final but they gained a new team,” but this one will be viewed very much as a missed opportunity, particularly with Oman lying in wait in the final.
Qasim will be disappointed as he found himself outwitted tactically by Alberto Zaccheroni, the UAE’s wily old fox of an Italian coach who shut the game down by stifling the movement of Iraq’s wide-men Ali Husni and Humam Tariq. Lone center-forward Aymen Hussein was swallowed up by UAE’s three-man defense which is yet to concede a goal in the tournament. Emirati commentators noted that Zaccheroni’s brand of football was “like watching a horror show”, but that won’t bother the former AC Milan coach one iota now they are in the final.
Qasim made mistakes but he is the man to lead the team forward. He has breathed new life into the Iraqi team after the disastrous World Cup qualifying campaign and unearthed a gem in Hussein Ali. He should be the player the team is built around for the Asian Cup next year. Much will be expected there.


Wenger to leave Arsenal after two decades in charge

Updated 20 April 2018
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Wenger to leave Arsenal after two decades in charge

LONDON: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is to leave at the end of the season after a reign of almost 22 years that made him the most successful boss in the Premier League club’s history.
“After careful consideration and following discussions with the club, I feel it is the right time for me to step down at the end of the season,” the Frenchman said in a statement issued by the Gunners on Friday.
Wenger, 68, has been with the North Londoners since October 1996 and is by far the longest-serving current manager in English football.
He will be out of contract at the end of the season.
Arsenal are currently a distant sixth in the league but are in the semifinals of the Europa League, which represents their only realistic route to the Champions League next season.
“I am grateful for having had the privilege to serve the club for so many memorable years. I managed the club with full commitment and integrity,” said Wenger, who urged the fans to stand behind the team to end the season on a high.
Arsenal’s majority owner Stan Kroenke said it was “one of the most difficult days we have ever had in all our years in sport.
“One of the main reasons we got involved with Arsenal was because of what Arsene has brought to the club on and off the pitch,” he said.
“His longevity and consistency over such a sustained period at the highest level of the game will never be matched.”
Wenger won three Premier League titles, including going unbeaten for an entire season, seven FA Cups and took Arsenal into the Champions League for 20 years in a row. They won the league and FA cup double in 1998 and 2002.
The club said a successor would be appointed as soon as possible with German Thomas Tuchel, out of work since leaving Borussia Dortmund almost a year ago, installed as the early bookmakers’ favorite.