Iraq hope practice makes penalties perfect for Iran test

Iraq recorded their sole win over Iran at an Asian Cup, a 2-1 group stage success in 1996

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Penalty practice begins on Wednesday for Iraq’s squad as head coach Radhi Shenaishil prepares his side for a quarter-final against old foes Iran by daring to dream of another Asian Cup title.

A 2-0 win over Palestine on Tuesday rounded off the 2007 champions’ Group D campaign and ensured a Canberra showdown on Friday with three times winners Iran, a side they have not beaten since 2003.

“Of course it is going to be a difficult match as there is a lot of history between us and Iran are a strong team,” Shenaishil told reporters on Tuesday.

“As a player I’ve played a lot of matches against Iran, especially at the stage where the losing teams will leave the competition, so I’m sure we’re going to see a good game in Canberra on Friday.”

Shenaishil was at the centre of Iraq’s defence when they recorded their sole win over Iran at an Asian Cup, a 2-1 group stage success in 1996.

The victory helped Iraq through to the last eight but they were knocked out by the hosts, the United Arab Emirates, 1-0 after extra time.

Qatar Sports Club head coach Shenaishil, only in temporary charge for the Asian Cup, was sure a victory over Iran on Friday would not go to waste this time, with Uzbekistan or South Korea awaiting in the last four.

“I wish that the 2007 scenario occurs for the Iraq national team again and if we get a positive result against Iran and make it to the semi-final, I’m sure you will find Iraq in the final,” he said.

Iran topped Group C after winning all three matches against Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates without conceding a goal.

Their miserly defence has kept five clean sheets including a 1-0 success over South Korea in a November friendly in Tehran and a 1-0 win over Iraq in an Asian Cup warm up in Wollongong.

Iraq should have snatched a point in that Jan. 4 fixture but their talisman striker Younis Mahmoud chipped a second half penalty kick over the bar after a failed panenka effort.

The 31-year-old skipper scored the opener against Palestine but again failed from the penalty spot on Tuesday. Shenaishil said practice would take place with a shootout the decider if any of the knockout matches are level after extra time.

“We will be training on penalties every day from now on,” he said.

“I selected Younis today because he only needs a couple of goals to become top goals scorer for Iraq, but with the important matches coming now it’s a serious decision on who will be taking penalties.”