Asian Cup preview: Iraq v Palestine
Recovering from their first defeat of the tournament against reigning champions Japan, Iraq will look to inflict the third straight loss on a team that has captured a nation with their passion and support. Meanwhile Palestine will hope to bow out in style and perhaps playing spoiler to Iraq’s progression.
Head to head
There have been five previous clashes between Iraq and Palestine in the last nine years with an overwhelming majority going to the Gulf nation. Iraq has won four clashes with the average margin of victory being three goals meaning tomorrow night should feature quite a few goals in Canberra.
The big issue
Palestine had their Asian Cup debut against Japan, and their crowning moment, a debut goal in the tournament against Jordan. So what does that leave them to achieve in the Australia's capital before they bow out? They have pride and one final chance to display their flag on a worldwide stage plus, hopefully, one more goal for their fans to celebrate even if they fall to defeat once again.
Iraq have only scored a single goal in their two group games thus far and will relish the chance to get their shooting boots on against an already eliminated opponent. Younis Mahmoud, Justin Meram and Yaser Kasim will fancy themselves to mesmerize and devastate the leaky Palestinian defence with some fancy footwork akin more to their opening game than their second. This attacking threesome will go a long way to deciding the score line of this contest.
Player to watch
Columbus Crew attacker, Meram came on in the final 15 minutes of the opening group game against Jordan making an impact straight away. His link up play with Swindon Town midfielder Kasim who scored the winning goal against Jordan was impressive. He will be hoping for a repeat in the final group game to prise open the Palestinian defence to ensure Iraq’s passage to the quarter final.
Palestine certainly haven’t disgraced themselves in the tournament despite the score lines reflected in the final wash-up. He hasn’t scored yet, but striker Ashraf Nu’man has impressed with his movement and ability to hold up play on the occasions Palestine found themselves in the attacking third and will hope to sign off with another international goal added to his tally.
Expect a valiant effort once again from the Palestinian side but this Iraqi team should have enough firepower to get over their opponents and ensure a second place finish in Group D to set up a derby with Iran in the quarterfinals.