Asian Cup 2011 Quarter-Final Preview: Australia - Iraq

Familiar foes face off in last eight.
It's a repeat of the 2007 group stage meeting between Australia and Iraq this evening in Qatar, as the two sides face off in the quarter finals of the 2011 Asian Cup.

Four years ago Iraq stunned their illustrious opponents on their way to winning the tournament.

That was an Australia team widely criticized for failing to give the competition the respect it deserved, amid predictions of winning the Cup at the first time of asking.

The Socceroos this time around have been contrastingly more diplomatic in their comments, paying respects to whatever opposition they face and perhaps coming to the realization that they are not the favorites despite the pedigree of their individual players.

After negotiating a group that included Bahrain and South Korea without defeat, Holger Osieck's men will be confident that they are better prepared for Iraq than they were in Bangkok.

They have been anything but convincing save for their second half performance against the Koreans, scraping past Bahrain courtesy of a long-range Mile Jedinak strike and Mark Schwarzer's heroics between the posts.

Luke Wilkshire, Tim Cahil, Jason Culina, Brett Holman and David Carney have all been passed fit to play after being under injury clouds, though Brett Emerton is suspended.

Iraq have no such worries and will be hoping that Nashat Akram and Younis Mahmoud find form against the Australians; they are two players capable of hurting any side at the competition on their day.

German manager Wolfgang Sidka saw his team overcome a 2-1 loss to Iran in their opening game before beating both the UAE and North Korea 1-0 to secure their place in the quarter finals.

Not as free-flowing as they were when they first won the Asian Cup, they nonetheless have players were part of that history-making team able to lend their experience.

A technically proficient outfit, Iraq can crucially also mix it with the more physical Australians and Younis Mahmoud's aerial battle with Lucas Neill and Sasa Ognenovski could prove decisive.


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