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 Iraq can beat anyone

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مُساهمةموضوع: Iraq can beat anyone    الجمعة 27 يناير 2012, 2:20 am

Iraq can beat anyone



After an absence of almost eight years, Iraq are back in the final round of an Asian Zone FIFA World Cup™ qualifying. A spirited preliminary campaign has given the 2007 Asian champions real hope of going all the way to Brazil 2014, and few would be happier than their coach to see that happen.


The man in question is Artur Antunes Coimbra, better known to fans around the world as Zico. The former Brazil star has pedigree in Asian football, having guided Japan to Asian Cup glory in 2004 and later to a place at the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany. The 58-year-old has made an equally encouraging start to life in charge of Iraq, leading the Lions of Mesopotamia to the last round of Asian qualifying.


Ahead of the final matchday of round three on 29 February, Zico spoke to FIFA.com about his experience with Iraq so far and gave his predictions for the rest of the preliminary tournament.


Overcoming obstacles


Zico took charge of Iraq just a few days before their opening third-round qualifier for Brazil 2014. The match, held in Erbil, marked the team's return to home soil after an enforced exile, and saw them take on a Jordan side led by Iraqi coach Adnan Hamad. Despite an enthusiastic display, Iraq lost the match 2-0 and prompted many to question whether they – and their coach – had the ability to reach the fourth round.


That opening defeat would prove to be little more than a blip, however, and suggested that all Zico needed was a little time to work on tactics and the strengthening of team bonds. Iraq went on to record four straight victories, defeating Singapore, beating China PR twice and gaining revenge against Jordan in the return fixture in Amman on matchday five.


“In the beginning we didn’t have enough time to prepare,” said Zico, reflecting on the early stages of his tenure. “Things improved after that and we’ve helped the players to progress, while working specifically towards each match. This method has paid off; we’ve beaten every team in our group and erased the memory of our defeat against Jordan.


“The victory in Amman secured our qualification [for the fourth round] and we’re now hoping to finish top of the group,” he continued. “Everyone doubted us after our [opening] defeat, but we’ve weathered the storm and completed our mission.”


Iraq are indeed safely through to the fourth round, and Zico believes his side should feel confident as they go into the final phase. “We had a difficult start,” he said. “We were limited to training just a few days before important matches. Since we qualified, we’ve had more time and we now have six months in which to prepare for the fourth round. We must now play an international match every month.”


“This break will also allow us to monitor the players and call up some new faces,” Zico added. “For our match in Qatar, we brought in four new players of a good standard. The main thing is to be ready when the big day comes. I want my players to believe that they deserve their place at the World Cup.”


The line-up for the last round of qualifying is starting to take shape, and just four places remain as the sixth and final third-round matchday approaches. Zico is confident he knows which teams will reach Brazil 2014, and fancies his own side’s chances of joining them there.


“Australia, Japan and Korea Republic [if they qualify] are the clear choices, as they all played at the last World Cup,” he explained. “I’d also add Iran to the list. That said, results so far have confounded expectations: Japan lost to Korea DPR, Australia were beaten by Oman and Korea Republic went down to Lebanon.


“You have to prove yourself on the pitch,” the former Brazil playmaker went on. “The only way to qualify is to work hard, score goals and keep the ball out of your own net. In South America, no-one could have imagined Argentina losing to smaller teams. But that’s what happened against Bolivia and, more recently, Venezuela. It goes to show that there are no favourites in football... except Barcelona [laughs].


“All the teams have shown what they’re capable of throughout the qualifying campaign and I’m not expecting any big upsets in the final round. I’m going to focus on preparing Iraq in the best possible fashion and getting my players to realise that they can beat anyone. In football, it’s 11 against 11. To deserve to win, you just have to play from the heart.”


Heady homecoming?


Every national team coach dreams of stepping out at a FIFA World Cup after a long and gruelling qualifying campaign, and Zico is no different. His delight at qualifying for Germany 2006 with Japan was plain to see, so the idea of leading Iraq at the 2014 edition, in his homeland, understandably fills him with excitement. The 58-year-old could not hide his enthusiasm as he declared that “everyone wants to qualify for the great festival of world football”.


“I’ve appeared [at World Cups] as a player and a coach. I really hope I can experience it again,” Zico concluded. “Yes, Brazil is my home country but I’m Iraq’s coach and I just want to lead this team to the World Cup. I have faith in my players and I hope our efforts will be rewarded with success.”


Fifa.com


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Insurgents step up violence



Insurgents stepped up attacks around Iraq on Thursday, killing 17 people around the country, including 10 in a bombing attack on a house of two policemen and their families in central Iraq, police and hospital officials said.


At least 190 people have been killed in a wave of attacks by since the beginning of the year, raising concerns that the surge in violence and an escalating political crisis might deteriorate into a civil war, just weeks after the U.S. military withdrawal. Most of the dead in the wave of attacks have been Shiite pilgrims and members of the Iraqi security forces.


Two bombs planted at an entrance to a popular cafe in predominantly Sunni district of Sadiyah in southwestern Baghdad, killing three people and wounding 17 others, police officials said. A police officer was shot dead in the same neighborhood.


In Yarmouk, a mostly Sunni district in western Baghdad, gunmen killed a real estate agent and two clients, police said. They did not know the motive for the attack.


Earlier Thursday, insurgents blew up a house where two policemen brothers lived with their families in Hamia area, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of Baghdad, a police officer said. The house was leveled when insurgents detonated bombs they had planted around it at 1:00 a.m.


Both policemen, two infants and four women were among the dead, he said. A doctor at a nearby hospital confirmed the casualties.


All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.Also Thursday, a motorcycle bomb missed a passing police patrol in the northern city of Kirkuk, killing two civilians and wounding five others, police commander Brig. Gen. Sarhad Qadir said.


Since the U.S. completed its pullout last month, militant groups — mainly al-Qaida in Iraq — have stepped up attacks on the country’s majority Shiites and government institutions. Although there were no claims of responsibility for Thursday’s attacks, the bombings in Baghdad’s Sunni districts suggest suspected Shiite militants could be retaliating.


By Associated Press


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Iraq executions condemned



UN human rights chief Navi Pillay has criticised Iraq for executing 34 people on a single day last week.


She called the number of executions on 19 January "terrifying", saying there were "major concerns about due process and fairness of trials".The UN says the total number of people sentenced to death in Iraq since 2004 is believed to be more than 1,200.


Amnesty International said Iraq executed 12 people on a single day last November for terrorism offences.On 19 January, Iraqi state TV quoted a statement from the Ministry of Justice, saying that 34 people had been executed for what were described as terrorism-related offences.


Concerns over confessions


"Even if the most scrupulous fair trial standards were observed, this would be a terrifying number of executions to take place in a single day," said Ms Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.


"Most disturbingly, there was not a single report of anyone on death row in Iraq being pardoned, despite well-documented cases of confessions being extracted under duress," she went on.At least 63 people are thought to have been executed in Iraq in the past two months, estimates UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).


Ms Pillay also highlighted concerns about forced confessions, pointing out there were no reports of anyone on death row being pardoned.Her statement echoed the findings by Amnesty International in its 2011 report on human rights in Iraq.


"Trials consistently failed to satisfy international standards for fair trial; defendants frequently alleged that they had been forced to sign 'confessions' under torture or other duress while held incommunicado in pre-trial detention and were unable to choose their own defence lawyers," Amnesty said.


The BBC
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