Stielike confident about win against Iraq

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Stielike confident about win against Iraq

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Korea’s national football team manager Uli Stielike prepares for a training session with players on Saturday in Sydney, where Korea’s quarterfinal match against Iraq will be held on Monday. Iraq made it to the semifinals by eliminating its old enemy Iran on Friday. [NEWSIS]

National football team Manager Uli Stielike, who has not hesitated to criticize his players after poor performances, believes his team will win its semifinal match against Iraq on Monday in Sydney.

“I’m confident that the team is going to win tomorrow,” said the German manager during a press briefing held on Sunday.

“All members of the team have fully recovered and are able to play in the semifinals.”

The Taekgeuk Warriors’ contender in the semifinals is Iraq, who arguably caused the tournament’s biggest upset so far by beating their old enemy Iran in a penalty shootout on Friday.

In the quarterfinal match between the Middle Eastern countries, either side did not manage to break their tie within the 120-minute playing time. Iran led the game with Sardar Azmoun’s goal in the 24th minute, but Iraqi midfielder Ahmed Yasin equalized in the second half.

The match became even more thrilling during overtime as both sides scored two goals, taking it to the penalty shootout.

Iraq finally booked a spot in the semifinal as Iranian midfielder Vahid Amiri’s penalty kick bounced back from a goal post and Iraq’s eighth kicker Salam Shaker netted the ball.

An unexpected meeting in the semifinals with the 114th-ranked team instead of 51st-ranked Iran might sound better for the Taegeuk Warriors, but Iraq is not easy meat given their performance on Friday and their records in previous Asian Cup games.

South Korea is ahead of Iraq by posting 6-2-10, but Iraq is well known for prevailing in Asian Cup tournaments. They made it into the World Cup just once in 1986 but have advanced to the quarterfinals or higher in the Asian Cup six consecutive times. Iraq also won the cup in 2007, soothing the war-torn country.

South Korea met Iraq in the semifinal match of the Asian Cup in 2007, but was defeated in a penalty shootout, too.

Iraq also won a bronze medal at the Asian Games Incheon 2014, which ran from September to October.

But the situation looks better for the Korean national team this time. Though both countries have played 120-minute matches, South Korea has rested a day longer after winning against Uzbekistan on Thursday.

And Iraq’s manager, Radhi Shenaishel, agrees.

“It is true that physical condition is against us,” he said.

Iraq also had seven yellow cards in their previous match, and key player Yaser Kasim isn’t able to take part in the semifinals as he has received warnings for two matches in a row.

Another upset in the tournament also came on Friday. Underdog United Arab Emirates sent another favorite, Japan, home in the quarterfinal match - also from a penalty shootout. After tying 1-1 until the end of overtime, Japan lost to penalties as its two star players, Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa, missed the goal.

With two favorites eliminated, South Korea’s chance to win the Asian Cup looks good enough. If they win Monday’s match, they will go through to the final on Saturday against the winner of the semifinal game between Australia and the United Arab Emirates.

BY KIM BONG-MOON, KIM JI-HAN [bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]
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