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Asian Qualifiers - Group C: Iraq edge Hong Kong to set up dream tie with IR Iran

Muharraq: Iraq overcame a resilient Hong Kong 1-0 to regain top spot in Group C of the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 on Friday. 

Having seen Islamic Republic of Iran take provisional pole position with their win over Cambodia earlier on Friday, Iraq got the job done with a gritty win over Hong Kong to set up a classic final day tie against Team Melli on Tuesday, with the 2007 AFC Asian Cup winners only needing a draw to finish as group winners.

Iraq are on 17 points, two ahead of Iran.

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Iraq started on the front foot as they controlled the early possession and tested Hong Kong goalkeeper Yapp Hung Faii several times.

Hong Kong did well to keep Iraq at bay but a defensive mistake by Fung Hing Wa in clearing Mohammed Qasim’s long-range effort saw the ball settle in the back of the net to give the West Asians a fortunate lead.

Head coach Srecko Katanec’s Iraq side found it difficult to find their way into the box as Hong Kong played compactly, resulting in more crosses from the flank that Yapp easily dealt with.

Hong Kong were more lively in the closing minutes of the first half as they moved their way through the flanks, but the Iraqi defenders were also in fine form as they kept their lead heading into the break.

Iraq kept the lion’s share of possession in the second half but couldn't find a way past the resilient Hong Kong defence but would have felt that they should have doubled their advantage through a corner kick near the hour mark but Ahmad Ibrahim failed to keep his header on target.

Neither side, however, was able to score in the remaining minutes as Iraq notched a win that takes them within touching distance of a place in the final round of the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.

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