Fri, May 30, 2008 - Page 23 News List

Iraq win a reprieve from FIFA, Aussie match to go ahead

AFP , SINGAPORE

Iraq won a reprieve yesterday that allows them to play their Asian World Cup qualifier against Australia, as a handful of teams fight to stay in the race to South Africa in 2010.

The match had been under threat when FIFA suspended Iraq on Monday after Baghdad dissolved the Iraqi Olympic Committee and all national sport federations.

But a FIFA spokesman said it had since received correspondence from the Iraqi government saying that the Iraq Football Federation was not part of the decree, opening the door for its crucial game on Sunday in Brisbane.

If the game had not gone ahead it would have been curtains for Iraq, with Pim Verbeek’s men already topping Group 1 on four points from two matches.

Qatar are on three points, with China struggling on two and Iraq on one.

Qatar host China on Monday and another loss for the Chinese team could hammer the final nail into their World Cup coffin.

China are perennial underachievers and have so far managed to only draw with Iraq and Australia, making the game in Doha a must-win ahead of the return leg against Qatar in Tianjin on June 7.

After their shock 1-0 loss to Bahrain in March, Asian powerhouse Japan are desperate to make the most of home advantage against Oman on Monday, with coach Takeshi Okada relying on Celtic star Shunsuke Nakamura to carry them through.

“I have realized anew his presence, the accuracy of his play and the fact that he is a player with very high ability to read how the game develops,” Okada said of Nakamura.

Surprise table-toppers Bahrain are in Bangkok against a Thai team that has yet to take a point and who can almost certainly wave goodbye to any faint hopes they have of a trip to Africa if they lose.

Group 3 sees South Korea host Jordan in Seoul tomorrow, with Manchester United’s Park Ji-sung keen to showcase his skills after being snubbed by Alex Ferguson in Manchester United’s Champions League final victory over Chelsea.

South Korea currently have four points and are level with North Korea, who travel to basement team Turkmenistan on Monday.

With Uzbekistan securing two wins out of two so far, Saudi Arabia will need to beat minnows Lebanon, who have lost both their matches, at home to keep the pressure on in Group 4.

Uzbekistan play Singapore in the city-state and another victory would put them on the brink of becoming one of the 10 teams that progress to the final round of qualifying later this year.

In Group 5, pacesetters United Arab Emirates have a tough task in Tehran against Iran, while Syria are at home to Kuwait.

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