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Kuala Lumpur: Coach Jorvan Vieira will forever be associated with the AFC Asian Cup, having led Iraq to their historic success in 2007, 10 years ago today.

The well-travelled Brazilian looks back at the events which unfolded a decade past as his carefully laid out plans delivered one of the most memorable results in recent times. 

History often comes down to defining moments, a matter of seconds which can shape a destiny. For coach Jorvan Vieira, that moment in the final of the 2007 AFC Asian Cup was not Younus Mahmood’s header which secured Iraq a historic victory over Saudi Arabia in Jakarta. 

For Vieira, who had left no stone unturned over the previous two months, it was the moment the impending victory which would claim sporting headlines across the world was nearly snatched away.

 

“My memory is in the last minutes when victory nearly escaped from our hands when Malek headed and the ball went over the bar,” said Vieira. “I was shouting at everybody and wanted to go onto the field, but when the ball went over I knew we were champions.” 

With Vieira attempting to keep premature stoppage time celebrations to a minimum, Iraq goalkeeper Noor Sabri – much like counterpart Yasser Al Mosailem 20 minutes earlier – had flapped at a ball in the area. 

But fortunately for Iraq, the ball eventually dropped harmlessly onto the roof of the net, having deflected off striker Malek Al Hawsawi. 

And once the resulting goalkick had been taken, the final whistle blew and Vieira and his team were finally allowed to celebrate a remarkable achievement for the then war-torn nation. 

“The secret was not to sleep. Even early in the morning, I would be looking around the floors to make sure everything was OK,” said Vieira. “I would go in the players’ room and drink tea with them to give them confidence. This is my way, but with this way I have won many titles.” 

Prior to heading to Bangkok for the group stage, Iraq had lost the final of the 2007 WAFF Championship to Iran before suffering heavy defeats against Korea Republic and Uzbekistan in pre-tournament friendlies. 

“I was happy to get to the final of the WAFF Championship as I knew we could do something at the Asian Cup and by luck, I chose the right group of players,” said Vieira. “But every day, some players lost relatives. It was tough to prepare the team in these circumstances, but it was a great experience and gave me a chance to grow up.” 

Vieira, though, was able to keep his squad focused and they won Group A after drawing with Thailand and Oman either side of a 3-1 win over Australia. Crucially, that meant Iraq remained in Thailand for their quarter-final with Vietnam, which Vieira’s side won 2-0 against the co-hosts. 

And after gaining revenge on Korea Republic with a 4-3 triumph on penalties following a goalless draw in Kuala Lumpur, Iraq headed to the Indonesian capital for their subsequent date with destiny. 

“If you are prepared mentally and physically, you can move ahead and this was the key in 2007,” added Vieira. “We prepared them mentally and physically because back then, it was a complicated time in Iraq as there was a war and the result you know.”  

Photos: Lagardère Sports