Iraq reaches semifinals with 2-0 win over Vietnam

Updated: July 21, 2007, 1:39 PM ET
Associated Press

BANGKOK, Thailand -- Younis Mahmoud scored twice and Iraq reached the semifinals of the Asian Cup for the first time since 1976 with a 2-0 win Saturday over Vietnam that extended the conflict-torn nation's impressive run in the tournament.

Celebratory gunfire that rang out over Baghdad after the victory killed two people and wounded 15.

State television aired footage of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki congratulating team officials in Bangkok, where Iraq snapped a run of three successive quarterfinal exits in the tournament.

President Jalal Talabani said it was a "fabulous performance" and spoke of a "glorious victory."

Jorvan Vieira, Iraq's Brazilian coach, wasn't satisfied with his team's performance against Vietnam, but was already looking beyond a semifinal matchup against either Iran or South Korea, who were to play Sunday.

"Now we dream to be champion," Vieira said. "We have a right to dream, but we have to keep our feet on the floor."

Hundreds of Iraqis swarmed out of their houses after the victory, waving their country's flag and honking horns as men and boys jumped on top of minibuses and other vehicles. Those without flags took off their shirts and waved them.

Iraqi soldiers were among those firing rifles into the air and some even allowed cars to pass freely through checkpoints that are common throughout the capital of some 6 million people.

Japan also reached the semifinals Saturday when Yuji Nakazawa calmly slotted the winning penalty kick to give the defending champions a 4-3 shootout victory over Australia in Hanoi, Vietnam. The score was tied 1-1 at the end of 30 minutes of extra time.

Japan will face the winner of the other quarterfinal Sunday between Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan in Jakarta.

In Bangkok, Iraq took the lead in the second minute. A long freekick by Nashat Akram into the penalty area found Mahmoud unmarked and he glanced a header into the net.

Vietnam did not manage a shot on goal until the 19th minute, as Iraq settled into a comfortable pattern with its defense led by Jasim Mohammed Gholam. Iraq has only conceded one goal from open play in this tournament.

Vietnam's only real chance came just before halftime. A break down the left saw the ball cut back to Vu Phong Nguyen, but his on-target shot was blocked by defenders gathering near the goal line.

Iraq doubled its lead in the 65th minute, as Mahmoud's perfectly hit freekick curled over the Vietnam wall, beyond the reach of Duong Hong San and into the net.

Vieira was not letting his players celebrate their progress too much, saying changes would be made for the semifinal in Kuala Lumpur.

"It's one step ahead, but I hope we play much better in Malaysia," he said.


Associated Press Writer Qassim Abdul-Zahra contributed to this report from Baghdad.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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