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Iraq coach will quit after final

  • Story Highlights
  • Iraq coach Jorvan Vieira will quit after the Asian Cup final on Sunday
  • He says the difficulties involved in doing the job are bad for his health
  • He has steered the unfancied side to a final against Saudi Arabia
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JAKARTA, Indonesia (Reuters) -- Iraq coach Jorvan Vieira plans to quit his post after Sunday's Asian Cup final against Saudi Arabia, because of the disorganized state of Iraqi soccer.

Vieira said he had no regrets at all about taking the demanding post.

The Brazilian told Reuters he would turn down an extension to his two-month contract because of the chaos in Iraqi football, which he said made the job the most difficult of his career.

"I took this job because it was a tremendous challenge, and I have no regrets at all," Vieira said in a telephone interview.

"But I can't fight against everybody. I'm looking for a club or a national team with good, I'm doing everybody else's job.

"If my contract was for six months and not for two they would have had to take me to the hospital for crazy people."

Vieira said steering the unfancied Iraqis to their first Asian Cup final was one of the finest moments of his career.

"It was very big for me, one of my greatest achievements," said the Brazilian, who has coached 26 clubs and five national teams.

"I had a gut feeling inside, a message that I should take this job. It was a fantastic experience, it was a gift from god."

The 54-year-old said it was a hard decision to turn his back on Iraq, having been asked by players, fans and even Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to lead the team to the 2010 World Cup.

"For me, this is very difficult, everyone has asked me not to leave, but it's difficult working against my instincts," he said.

"I'm a very organized and meticulous man. It's difficult to work when you are agitated and things don't go as you wish. I have to fight against everything.

"I'm so tired, this is not good for my health," he added.

When Vieira took over two months ago, the team was in disarray, with poor training facilities, players unavailable and rifts between Shi'ites and minority Sunni Arabs in the squad.

As a result of Iraq's impressive performance in the Asian Cup, Vieira has been inundated with offers from club teams, although he denies reports he is set to replace Dutchman Pim Verbeek as South Korea's national coach.

"This is not true," he said. "I have not heard or said anything about this."

Iraq face three-times winners Saudi Arabia in Sunday's final in what Vieira hopes will be a fairytale finish to a campaign fraught with logistical mishaps and poor organization.

Whatever the outcome, Vieira said he and his players have something to be proud of.

"The whole world is talking about us," he said. "They are talking about the war in Iraq and they are amazed at what we have done as a team and as a group.

"This team have become stars in the world, and not only because of football.

"I'm very happy that I had the chance to help this team give hope to the Iraqi people."

The Saudis are chasing an unprecedented fourth title and strongly favored to win but face opponents who have defied incredible odds to reach their first final and inspired a nation ravaged by war.

Few people gave Iraq any chance of making it past the group stage after they drew their opening match against co-hosts Thailand but they made it through with a combination of hard work, skill and an ounce of luck.

Masking their grief at the fighting in their homeland, they beat tournament favorites Australia to top Group A before overcoming Vietnam in the quarter-finals and twice winners South Korea on penalties in the semis.

Iraq's extraordinary run has captured the imagination of the sporting world and provided a rare chance for people in the country to celebrate.

Saudi Arabia also reached the final the hard way, holding off a determined challenge from Uzbekistan in the quarterfinals before upsetting defending champions Japan 3-2 in the last four.

The Saudis boast the best attacking record in the competition with strikers Yasser Al Qahtani and Malek Maaz netting six goals between them but are wary about playing Iraq, who have the best defensive record.

Saudi Arabia coach Helio Cesar dos Anjos, who is also Brazilian, said his players were aware of the significance of playing Iraq but could not afford to let their emotions get the better of them.

"A lot of people might be surprised to see Saudia Arabia and Iraq in the final but they both deserve to be there because they played the best football," Anjos said, speaking through a translator.

"But we will have to face a very tough opponent that has a lot of quality (players) and is highly motivated.

"Iraq captain Younis Mahmoud said the key to his team's success had been to block out the problems in their homeland.

None of the Iraqi players have been untouched by the war and although the squad is made up of Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish players, they have formed a special bond.

"All the players have faced some difficult times but we know we can bring happiness to the Iraqi people," he said.

"We share a great responsibility to bring happiness to the Iraq people through football so we always just concentrate on the match.

"We love football and we love our country and we are ready to defend it." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Copyright 2007 Reuters. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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