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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)
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.

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