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Meram and Ahmed start for Iraq against Palestine

Published: Updated:

Iraq gave first Asian Cup starts to Ahmed Yaseen Gheni and Justin Meram as they searched for the big win over Palestine on Tuesday that would ensure they reach the quarter-finals for the sixth consecutive edition.

The forward thinking duo, who came off the bench in Iraq's first two matches, start in place of the suspended Alaa Abdul Zehra and benched Ali Adnan in the only changes to the side that lost 1-0 to holders Japan last time out.

The Samurai Blue have six points from two Group D matches and take on Jordan in Melbourne at the same time as Iraq face struggling Palestine in Canberra.

An expected, victory for 2007 winners Iraq would see them move onto six points and they will qualify for the last eight if Japan can avoid defeat against the Jordanians.

Should Jordan claim a shock victory over Japan, Iraq will need a big win to qualify with goal difference and head-to-head records being used to separate the three teams that would be locked on six points at the end of the group stage.

Their bid for goals was aided by the absence of Palestine goalkeeper and skipper Ramzi Saleh, with Tawfiq Abuhammad stepping in as his replacement.

That was one of seven changes made by Palestine coach Ahmed Al Hassan as he rotated his squad to give a taste of top level experience to as many as possible ahead of the World Cup qualifying campaign later this year.

Palestine have struggled on the first appearance at the Asian Cup and were dispatched 4-0 by a wasteful Japan in their opener and 5-1 by Jordan last time out.

Iraq coach Radhi Shenaishil called on his side to rack up the goals against their struggling opponents.

“Goal difference is important to us,” he said.

“If our forwards will be in the right position they will do their best. But it’s not basketball or handball where there are a lot of scores. Hopefully our players can be on target and we get a positive result.”

Iraq - 12-Jalal Hassan; 23-Waleed Salim, 2-Ahmed Ibrahim, 14-Salam Shakir, 15-Dhurgham Ismael; 5-Yaser Kasim, 21-Saad Abdul Amir; 7-Amjed Kalaf, 8-Justin Meram, 9-Ahmed Yaseen Gheni; 10-Younis Mahmoud

Palestine - 1-Tawfiq Abuhammad; 15-Abdallatif Al-Bahdari, 4-Ahmed Mahajna, 14-Abdallah Jaber, 8-Hisham Salhi, 9-Khaled Salem, 10-Ismail Alamour, 11-Ahmed Wridat, 16-Mahmoud Dhadha, 20-Khader Abuhammad, 7-Ashraf Al-Fawaghra