AFC National Team of the Year: Iraq U-20s
Kuala Lumpur: Iraq U-20s have been named the AFC National Team of the Year following their heroics in reaching the semi-finals of the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup.
The 2012 AFC U-19 Championship runners-up gave a tremendous account of themselves in Turkey, with their never-say-die attitude seeing them battling all the way to the final four, where they eventually bowed out to Uruguay 6-5 on penalties having been just three minutes away from a place final.
Iraq started their campaign in impressive fashion, coming from two goals down to draw 2-2 with England before recording successive 2-1 wins over Egypt and Chile to advance to the knockout phase as Group E’s top side.
A hard-fought 1-0 extra-time victory over Paraguay in the Round of 16 set up an all-Asian quarter-final clash with Korea Republic and after extra-time of the thrilling last-eight encounter ended 3-3, Iraq held their nerve to win 5-4 on penalties and gain revenge for the shootout defeat at the hands of the East Asians in the 2012 AFC U-19 Championship final.
“It is the recognition of our efforts in a difficult but memorable year,” Iraq U-20 coach Hakeem Shaker said after receiving the award from Yousuf Yaqoob Al Serkal, AFC Vice President and Chairman of the AFC Competitions Committee.
“We had several challenges but finally impressed the world by our football.
“This award also shows that Iraqi football is heading in the right direction and we have good strategies in place.
“I am happy because the nominees here at the awards from Iraq are all coming from my team but the credit goes to the boys, the fans and all involved in Iraqi football.