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

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.

Lewis Hamilton wins German GP as rival Sebastian Vettel crashes late on

Updated 22 July 2018

Lewis Hamilton wins German GP as rival Sebastian Vettel crashes late on

HOCKENHEIM: Lewis Hamilton regained the championship lead in unexpected and dramatic fashion on Sunday, winning the German Grand Prix after Sebastian Vettel crashed while leading near the end.

Heavy rain played havoc late on at the Hockenheimring as Vettel misjudged a basic entry into a turn and slid over the gravel into the barriers with 15 laps to go.

The four-time Formula One champion started from pole position and seemed in control. He was livid with himself, kicking the gravel in frustration as he stepped out his car.

His mishap opened the door wide open for Hamilton.

The British driver was fourth at the time of the crash, having started from 14th on the grid because of a hydraulic problem in qualifying.

“It’s obviously very difficult from that position and highly unlikely but you’ve got to believe,” Hamilton said. “I did a long prayer before the race. I wanted to stay collected, stay calm. The team did such a great job today. I kept believing and it happened so I manifested my dream today. A big, big thanks to God.

“Conditions were perfect for business time. When it rained, I knew I would have a good position.

“You never knew what was going to happen after the safety car. I hope this solidifies their belief in me, and I hope this solidified my belief in them. For those who didn’t know me before, now you do.”

Valtteri Bottas started and finished second on a great day for Mercedes, with Kimi Raikkonen taking third on a bad one for Ferrari.

Vettel’s incident led to a safety car coming out for several laps.

When the race resumed, with about 10 laps left, Bottas almost overtook Hamilton.

That did not go down well at a nervy Mercedes. Shortly after, Bottas was firmly told on team radio to “hold position” and not challenge Hamilton, who secured his fourth win of the season and 66th overall.

“As a driver a win is what we are after, when Seb went off I think there was a good chance,” Bottas said. “Taking positives, as a team it is a perfect result for us. We had a bit of a battle lap one after the safety car. I didn’t get past and I got told to minimize the risk but I understand. I think we have certain rules but it wasn’t clear enough. It was a moment in the race where I needed to stop.”

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff justified the team orders afterwards.

“It’s two things,” he said. “We didn’t have the quickest car and we need to prepare for the next races. It was still raining at the time and the fight was so intense. With the bad luck we had, we didn’t want to take chances.”

Raikkonen finished third after also having to comply with team orders, move over and let Ferrari teammate Vettel through. “I think we have certain rules but it wasn’t clear enough,” he said. “It was a moment in the race where I needed to stop.”

Ferrari were holding a one-two for a lot of the race, but had to settle for a third and a DNF. Rain caused havoc toward the end and provided a real test of the drivers’ mettle and skill.

“In the past, it’s been difficult in the rain and I was surprised with how the grip reacted,” said Raikkonen. “It didn’t really change an awful lot in the end. It was a tricky race. I had a problem with one of the lappers, the Sauber. It was a tricky race but we try next time.”