Iraq hold their nerve to claim title
Al Ram: Iraq became the first winners of the WAFF U-18 Championship, prevailing 4-2 on penalties against United Arab Emirates after 0-0 draw in Friday’s final.
Beaten 4-2 by UAE just six days prior, Iraq overcame the sending off of Abdulrazzaq Kadah to force the shootout, where they netted four of their five penalties to secure the trophy.
Earlier, Jordan claimed a 3-0 win over host nation Palestine to finish the tournament in third place.
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FINAL: IRAQ 0-0 UAE (Iraq win 4-2 on penalties)
Iraq held their nerve in the penalty shootout to emerge victorious in the final, beating the United Arab Emirates after 90 scoreless minutes at Faisal Al Husseini Stadium.
It was UAE’s third scoreless draw in four matches at the tournament, but, unlike their semi-final against Palestine, they misfired from the penalty spot with just two of their four efforts from the spot finding the target.
Iraq’s tournament win provides the perfect confidence boost ahead of November’s AFC U-19 Championship 2020 Qualifiers, where they will face Oman, Palestine, Kuwait and Pakistan on home soil.
After a goal-laden group stage clash between the two sides less than a week earlier, Hussein Khudhair got through on goal for Iraq in the second minute, but his miss was ultimately a preview of what was to come in a match where the few clear cut scoring chances weren’t taken.
Harib Al Maazmi’s threatening low cross forced Iraq’s impressive goalkeeper Ahmed Merwah into action after 11 minutes, but that was a rare intervention by either shot-stopper in a first-half that provided few clues to the identity of the eventual winners.
Merwah had to be vigilant to palm Abdulla Al Menhali’s dangerous effort over the crossbar with 20 minutes remaining, and the UAE looked even more likely to take the ascendancy when Kadah was shown a second yellow card three minutes later, but the goal they needed never materialised.
One of the passing moves of the tournament ended in disappointment when UAE’s Al Maazmi skied an effort well clear of either the goal or any of his teammates In the 81st minute, before one of Iraq’s best chances came and went without a shot on goal when Munthader Jebur failed to make contact from close range a minute later.
Penalties were required to decide the champions and, for the second time in three days, it was a stage on which the Iraqis excelled, netting their first three spot-kicks, while Merwah saved from Hazza Al Njeibi.
A superb save from Rakaan Al Menhali to deny Ahmad Hassan gave the Emiratis the chance to recover, but Hamdan Al Beshr hit the upright with the very next kick, affording Hussein Jasim the opportunity to steer home the decisive penalty to win the tournament for Iraq.
THIRD PLACE PLAY-OFF: JORDAN 3-0 PALESTINE
A three-goal surge after half-time helped Jordan seal third place, overcoming Palestine for the second time in the tournament to claim a 3-0 victory.
Favourites to beat the hosts after their 2-0 win in the tournament opener, Jordan had the lion’s share of early chances in the final third but failed to make them count as the first half ended scoreless.
When the goals came, they came in abundance - starting in the 52nd minute when Mohammad Abu Taha evaded the Palestinian defence to head home a close range header.
Jordan only had to wait three further minutes for their second, a Mohammad Al Qeisi tap-in following a corner kick, before Mohannad Semreen sealed the win with a superb curling effort 10 minutes from time.
The result capped a largely successful tournament for Jordan, whose only misstep was their semi-final penalty shootout defeat against eventual champions Iraq.
Photos: Palestine Football Association
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