Iraq crashed out of the U23 in excruciating circumstances after a thrilling 120 minutes. Vietnam started the better of the two sides. They took an early lead after only 11 minutes following a defensive error inside the Iraqi box. The Lions of Mesopotamia failed to clear the ball from an incoming set piece and the ball fell to Nguyen Cong Phuong, who slotted passed a hapless Ahmed Basil.
Iraqi didn’t take long to equalise thanks to a poor refereeing decision. Aymen Hussain was challenged in the box and he fell theatrically, which won him a penalty that should have never been awarded. Aymen didn’t need a second invitation and duly converted from the spot. His shot went straight down the middle and the Vietnamese goalkeeper managed got a touch of the ball, but not one strong enough to keep it out of the net.
Despite overwhelming possession, it took 60 minutes for Iraq to create their first real chance. Bashar’s clever lofted through ball landed to Aymen Hussain, whose poor touch ricochet off the goalkeeper and back to him. However, he was unable to convert into an open net, albeit from an extremely tight angle.
The game continued to be played in a cagey manner, with neither team able to find a winner in 90 minutes. Iraq looked the better of the two teams but didn’t look like scoring. They failed to create any real chances and suffered from poor tactical decisions from the manager. A lack of structure in midfield meant that Bashar and Hussain Ali rarely received the ball in the final third. The latter was especially quite, as he has been throughout the whole tournament. This says more about the manager’s tactics than the player, since we all know what he’s capable of doing.
Iraqi players seem confused as to where they are playing. It’s usually acceptable for team to have one player who can roam freely across the final third. Having Hussain Ali and Bashar both playing free roles behind the striker simply created chaos, with neither player knowing where to run into. Hussain Ali had to come deep just to simply receive the ball, meaning he was unable to utilise his attacking skills in front of the opposition goal.
Likewise, the lack of real width in the team made it extremely difficult for the attackers. Hamza Adnan and Alaa Mhawi has quiet games, which meant Vietnam can play a compact and narrow defence. Therefore, there was not much space for Iraq to pass the ball in.
Early on in extra time, captain Bashar Resan’s well taken corner from the near side was converted by a leaping Aymen Hussain. The ball appeared to take a nick off his shoulder before flying into the top corner – fortunate, but they all count.
It looked like Iraq had all but won it, except for an Ahmed Basil error with only 20 minutes to go. The Iraqi goalkeeper rushed off his line to collect a loose cross and fumbled it. Phan Van Duc was quickest to react and smashed it into an open net. Vietnam piled on the pressure and were duly rewarded when Hà Duc Chinh converted from a corner with a well taken header only moments later. The ball went directly under Ahmed Basil, who once again should’ve saved with ease.
With only 5 minutes left, a long ball from Ahmed Basil fell to Aymen Hussain, who did exceptionally well to bring it down and play in Alaa Mhwai through on goal. Alaa accepted the invitation and smashed it in to tie the scores once more. Farhan Shakor should’ve won it at the death, but his lack of composure in front of goal saw his tame shot easily saved by the Vietnamese goalkeeper.
Iraq’s captain Bashar was the first to step up in the penalty shootout, but his shot directly down the middle was well read by the goalkeeper. Vietnam scored all four of their first penalties with consecutive shots into Ahmed Basil’s righthand corner. The Iraqi guessed incorrectly on almost every occasion. Aymen Hussain, Alaa Mhawi and Amjed Atwan’s penalties were converted to keep up the pressure. Vietnam’s final penalty taker, Bui Tien Dung II, decided to shoot in the opposite direction. Ahmed Basil guessed correctly but his weak save saw the ball bounce back into his own net. An absolute nightmare of a performance for the Iraqi goalkeeper, who cost his side a spot in the Asian Cup U23 semifinal.
It was a pitiful performance overall, which saw Iraq eliminated from two competitions on penalties in the space of a month following the Gulf Cup 23. Abdulghani Shahad will have to be held accountable to the dire performances throughout the tournament. Despite his early penalty miss, Bashar was by far the best player in the tournament and essentially carried his team throughout with a string of exceptional performances.
Man Of the Match – Aymen Hussain