PATRAS, Greece - Morocco came from one goal down to defeat Iraq 2-1 in a men's soccer preliminary match Wednesday.
Even with the loss, Iraq advances to the quarterfinals as the winner of Group D, with Costa Rica going through second in the group courtesy of their 4-2 defeat of Portugal.
Morocco took the lead in the 75th minute on a crossing pass conversion. Salaheddine Aqqal came on as a substitution for Morroco and immediately paid dividends. He was in the 6-yard-box to knock home a crossing pass from the right to give Morocco the lead.
Iraq hit the crossbar in the 89th minute with a header to almost tie the game.
Morocco tied the game 1-1 by converting a penalty kick in the 69th minute when a Iraqi defender tripped Farid Talhaoui in the penalty box.
Sadir took a crossing pass from the right and beat the Morocco goalie by shooting across the goalie's body to the right. Sadir scored in the 62nd minute.
Iraq and Morocco were tied 0-0 after the first half.
Morocco’s best scoring chance in the first half came in the 32nd minute on a nice crossing pass from the right. The shot went wide left of the goal.
Iraq’s Hassan Haidar Abdul Amir received a yellow card in the 35th minute.
Iraq has already qualified for the quarterfinals with wins over Portugal and Costa Rica. In the first half the Iraqis were more of a defensive team and did not play with much intensity or urgency against Morocco. Iraq made six lineup changes for the game against Morocco from the lineup that faced Costa Rica on Sunday.
Morocco had an excellent scoring chance in the 59th minute when a Morocco player just missed a diving header on a cross from the right on the top of the 18-yard-box.
A minute later Morocco missed shot high just over the top of the crossbar from the top of the 18-yard-box.
Iraq defeated Costa Rica 2-0 Sunday night in a soccer game that was temporarily halted when jubilant fans ran onto the field. The Iraqis second straight victory put them in the quarterfinals, quite an achievement for a team that can’t play games at home because of war.
Iraq was not expected to qualify for the Olympic tournament, much less open with victories against Portugal and Costa Rica. The country last qualified for the Olympics at the 1988 Seoul Games and hasn’t been in the quarterfinals since the 1980 Moscow Games.
Its success in Athens has provided a rare bright spot for Iraqis around the world.
“We’re delighted by the victories because we know what it means to our people,” Iraq coach Adnan Hamad said through an interpreter.
In the 67th minute, Hawar Mulla Mohammed slammed a bouncing ball into the net from 18 yards out to put Iraq ahead of Costa Rica 1-0, sending the crowd into a frenzy. Mohammed jubilantly sprinted around the endline and up the sideline, where he was mobbed by teammates.
Within moments, a couple of Iraqi fans jumped out of the crowd to join the celebration. About two dozen others followed, running around the field. Police and security personnel took about three minutes to clear the field of fans and debris.
Shortly after the ensuing kickoff, Mohammed took the ball down the left side and crossed it to Mahdi Karim, who scored on a header — prompting several fans to storm the field again.
One jumped around Costa Rica’s goal and tossed an Iraqi flag into the net. Another ran to midfield and hugged an Iraqi player. After another short delay, the game resumed.
Iraqi Olympic Committee president Ahmed Al Samarri did not approve of the disruptions, but he understood them.
“They were very excited,” he said. “Especially for the Iraqi people, they miss such happiness.”
In May, Iraq clinched an Olympic soccer berth just three months after the country was reinstated by the International Olympic Committee following a nine-month absence. Iraq’s Olympic Committee was previously run by Saddam Hussein’s son, Odai, who tortured players when they fell out of favor.
Two months after qualifying, the team’s German coach, Bernd Stange, resigned, saying authorities told him to leave for his safety.
He was replaced by his assistant, Hamad, who coached Iraq’s national soccer team to victory in the West Asian Championship in 2002 and played on the national team during the early 1980s.
In July, Iraq reached the quarterfinals of the Asian Cup, a run that included a 2-1 win over regional power Saudi Arabia. It was Iraq’s first win over the Saudis since 1988.
Against Costa Rica, the referee added six minutes to the end of the second half, mostly to make up for time lost because of the fans. After the second Iraq goal, police and security called in reinforcements to guard the stands on either sideline, where most of the 12,153 fans were seated.
After the final whistle, the Iraqi players linked arms and jogged toward their adoring throng. Some fans were able to make it past the police to embrace players.
“The difficulties that all Iraqis have endured, especially over the last year and a half with the occupation — we fully recognize what we’re doing as ambassadors for our country,” Hamad said.
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