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Iraq has been a nightmare for South American teams at the U-20 World Cup

Iraq has been a nightmare for South American teams at the U-20 World Cup
Iraq, who will be Uruguay's rival on Wednesday in the semifinals of the Under-20 World Cup, has been a nightmare for the South American teams so far this tournament, beating both Chile (2-1) and Paraguay (1-0).

The most consequential loss was suffered by the Paraguayans, as occurred in the round of 16. Paraguay was the runner-up from South America and had come to the tournament with high expectations and a generation of footballers that seemed destined to scale great heights.

Genes Victor's team had their chances, but were put behind the eight ball with the sending off of Arnaldo Sanabria in the 80th minute, forcing them to play forty minutes with one less player since the game went into extra time tied at 0-0.

Derlis González almost scored with only three minutes left in regulation time but had no luck and the Iraqis themselves scored at the beginning of extra time with a goal by Farhan Sakhor which sent the Paraguay team back home to Asuncion.

"We did what we could do. We had the chance to win, but we did not score goals when they could and they did in extra time. And considering that we were a man down," lamented Genes after that game.

Iraq was the surprise winner of Group E, thanks to their last round 2-1 win against Chile.

Kamil Mahdi put the 'Lions of Mesopotamia' ahead in the 14th minute but Felipe Mora equalized in the 27th. In the second half the Asian runner-up finally put the game to rest with their second goal, this time from Saif Salman (67).

Iraq will therefore be a tough opponent for Uruguay who has already been warned of the potential of the team with little tradition in this competition, but that has proved to be quite the danger.

Juan Verzeri's team already knows Iraq as before the World Cup they played a friendly match against them, which ended in a goalless draw. From that match they could see that the Iraq team is ordered, a fighter and a talented opponent that creates problems for their opponents.

Uruguay reached their fifth semifinal in the U-20 and is looking for their second final, after losing in Malaysia-1997 against Argentina (2-1), while Iraq is in the top four for the first time.

Both teams struggled to their wins in the quarterfinals. The Uruguayans defeated Spain 1-0 in extra time and the Iraqis had to go to penalties (5-4 after 3-3) to beat South Korea, the champion of Asia and the Colombian executioner in the round of 16.

The winner of the semifinal will face either France or Ghana in the final on Saturday in Istanbul. The France-Ghana match will also be played on Wednesday in Bursa.


Text and photo: AFP