In a classic game of two halves, Iraq edged out tournament favourite Japan 4-2 in the AFC Under-16 Championship, at the GMC Stadium, in Bambolim on Thursday. Mohammed Dawood scored a hat-trick.
It started the brighter of the two teams, having the lion’s share of the possession in the first 10 minutes.
Iraq’s intricate passes paid off in the 18th minute as the midfielder broke the deadlock.
The No. 7 received the pass on the right side of the penalty box, went past a defender and put his laces through the ball.
The shot deflected of Japan’s Seko Ayumu, leaving the ’keeper stranded as the ball nestled in the back of the net.
This was the first goal Japan conceded in this tournament and it woke the team up.
It started to dominate as captain Fukuoka Shimpei pulled the strings from the middle of the park.
And in the 29th minute, Japan restored parity through Hiroto Yamada, who rifled home Hirakawa Rei’s chipped through ball.The equaliser proved to be the catalyst Japan needed as it continued to dictate the proceedings.
In the 42nd minute, Yamada doubled his tally after his low cross, from inside the box, missed everybody, including the intended target Taisei Miyashiro, as the ball sneaked into the goal.
Japan went into the break with a 2-1 lead.
Second half was a totally different story. Chasing the game, Iraq upped the ante in search of the equaliser and it did come in the 67th minute.
Muntadher Mohammed tapped in from six yards out after Japan failed to clear its lines from a freekick.
Dawood then slotted home a brace of penalties (81 st minute, 90+ minute) to complete his hat-trick as Iraq ended Japan’s 100 per cent record in the tournament.
Iran beats DPR Korea
In the other semifinal, Iran beat defending champion DPR Korea 6-5 in penalty shootout.
Korea’s Kim Kyong Sok heartbreakingly missed his penalty, gifting the Iranians a final date with Iraq.
Skipper Mohammed Sharifi opened the scoring for the Iranians in the 19th minute through an indirect freekick but the Koreans equalised from the penalty spot in the 81st minute, through Kye Tam.
With both teams deadlocked at 1-1 after regulation time, it was time for penalties.
The shootout entered sudden death as Iran’s keeper Ali Gholam Zadeh was its hero as he saved Kim Kyong Sok’s decisive penalty, sending the Iranian dugout into ecstasy.