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Iraq face Saudi test

The Asian Cup is now down to its last two matches with Japan facing Korea Republic in third place play-off and Iraq meeting Saudi Arabia in the final on Sunday in Jarkata.

At the beginning of the tournament I wouldn't have thought that Iraq would be in the final but they have earned their place through some good all round football and I think their only blip was in the second half of their opening match against Thailand but from there on they have been a joy to watch.

I was happy to see Iraq beat Korea in the semis because in Korea we had team that more or less depended on set pieces to score because from open play they simply could not get their game right. Hence in the quarters they beat Iran in the penalty shoot-out and that wasn't surprising but against Iraq they met a team whose penalty taking was par excellent.

Some nil-all matches are very boring especially if they go for 120 minutes but I found the Iraq/Korea match interesting and Iraq had the better chances although they were few and far between.

In the third place play-off Japanese striker Naohiro Takahara has a chance to increase his goal tally and boost his chances of getting the golden boot and for him that should be an important match. Saudi's Yasser Al Qahtani and Iraq's Younis Mahmoud are the only players who could possibly challenge him because they have both scored three goals so far in the tournament.

For Japan it must be an unfamiliar position playing in the bronze medal match having played and won the last two finals but I still think Japan will win the third place match because they have been better than Korea Republic and lost to Saudi Arabia who scored some brilliant goals and defended well for the latter stages of the match. What could change the tilt is if both teams decide to field their fringe players and in that case it will become any body's game.

Now talking about the final I would think that Saudi Arabia may have an edge over Iraq but I would like to see an Iraq win. Saudi were very fortunate against Uzbekistan but against Japan they deserved their win and after starting slowly and absorbing the Japanese pressure they surprising took the lead and from then on stepped up the gear to make the match one of the most interesting in the tournament so far.

Whatever happens in the final, I think Iraq have done so well and deserve their place in the final.

Wes, I think Japan not getting to the final was probably good for the competition. As you mention in the post Japan won the last two Asian Cups and its good now that we are going to see a new and hopefully Iraq.

I would have liked to see Uzbekistan in the final against Iraq but yes, Uz blew their chances against Saudi Arabia and who knows what could have happened had that Uz goal not wrongly ruled offside.

Yes Nick, Japan failing to reach means that next time they know that there is now some stiff competition beyond the traditional rivals. There are also others like China who didn't do particularly well and yet reached the final last time around albeit at home and so those should come up in full force for the next Cup. And then there is the Socceroos whom I think now know that the Asian Cup is not a walk in the park and they too will make sure that the next tournament will be even more interesting.

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