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Inspired Iraq in Asian Cup triumph

  • Story Highlights
  • Younis Mahmoud's goal saw Iraq crowned Asia champions for first time
  • Mahmoud's 71st-minute header was enough to beat Saudi Arabia in Jakarta
  • It was Mahmoud's fourth goal to finish joint leading scorer in the tournament
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JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Skipper Younis Mahmoud's thumping headed goal crowned Iraq as the Asian Cup champions for the first time with a stirring 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia in the final here Sunday.

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Jubilant skipper Mahmoud celebrates the second half goal that gave Iraq victory against all the odds.

Mahmoud powered home the 71st-minute header off a Hawar Mohammed corner for the only goal in the fiercely-contested all-Arab final over the three-time champion Saudis in a seething Gelora Bung Karno Stadium.

The huge roar inside the stadium was no doubt bettered by wildly celebrating supporters back in their war-ravaged homeland where Iraqis risked death to rejoice the unifying triumph of their national football team.

Iraq blunted the resistance of the Saudis, who could not counter the determination and steel of their Gulf rivals in the crackling decider to the three-week continental tournament.

Mahmoud's goal came after concerted Iraqi pressure when Hawar's corner directed at the far post went beyond goalkeeper Yaser Al Mosailem and on to the striker's head for a terrific header.

It was Mahmoud's fourth goal to finish joint leading scorer in the tournament with Saudi Arabia's Yasser Al Qhatani and Japan's Naohiro Takahara.

Iraq, who have captivated the football world with their inspirational progress at the tournament, finished conceding just two goals in their six games and put a spanner in the free-flowing Saudis, who were the leading scorers with 12 goals.

The Iraqis have shown great resolve throughout the tournament, crushing Australia 3-1 and negotiating South Korea on penalties in last Wednesday's gruelling two-hour semifinal in Kuala Lumpur.

It was a coaching triumph for Brazilian Jorvan Vieira, 54, who only signed a two-month contract with the Iraqi Football Federation and said Saturday he intended to quit the job after accomplishing what he had set out to achieve.

It was a combustible opening 45 minutes with Australian referee Mark Shield issuing five yellow cards -- three to Iraq and two to the Saudis -- as tackles flew in from both teams.

The Iraqi defence handled the twin Saudi threat of Malek Maaz and Yasser Al Qahtani capably with left-back Bassim Abbas having a particularly solid game with his trademark acrobatic overhead clearances.

Iraq, who had the better chances in the fiercely-contested exchanges, went close in the 28th minute when Karrar Jassim wriggled past two defenders and forced goalkeeper Yaser Al Mosailem to punch clear.

Iraq skipper Mahmoud went down dramatically grabbing his head after defender Waleed Jahdali appeared to head-butt him, but television replays showed that Mahmoud milked the incident and both were booked by the referee.

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Al Qahtani had his only chance of the half when he made some space nearing half-time but blazed his shot over the bar. Playmaker Nashat Akram then gave Mahmoud a chance in the box but his close-range shot was blocked by Waleed Jahdali 15 minutes after the interval.

Iraq goalkeeper Noor Sabri made a flying save to prevent a screaming volley from Taiseer Al Jassam going in and the action switched to the other end where Al Mosailem made a double save to stop Mahmoud and then Hawar Mohammed from scoring. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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