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A proud Qahtan Chitheer lauded his Iraq side after they reached the semi-finals of the AFC U-16 Championship for just the fourth time after they defeated 2012 winners Uzbekistan 2-0 on Monday.
Mohammed Dawood put the Iraqis in front on seven minutes and despite spurning a host of opportunities, including hitting the woodwork three times early in the second half, Dawood’s second 12 minutes from time booked a last four meeting with Japan.
Their fourth straight undefeated game will no doubt be the sweetest as it brings with it the final available Asian spot at the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup, as Iraq join the Islamic Republic of Iran, Japan and DPR Korea in next year’s FIFA tournament, also hosted by India.
“I am so happy and satisfied with my players for achieving this result. We are very proud to reach this level of the tournament,” said coach Chitheer.
“It was a good match, we played very well. Uzbekistan is a good, strong team but we played strongly and controlled the ball in all areas of the field.
“We have a well-arranged team, although we did miss chances in second half. We will work on this because we lost chances but we played well and got two goals.
“We have spent three years with this team, having started with the U-14 team, and we worked very hard with the Iraq FA and for a long time to get to this standard and achieve a result like this.
“We also reached our first goal of reaching the World Cup and now we want to go on and reach the final of the AFC U-16 Championship.”
Timur Alimkhodjayev’s Uzbekistan, meanwhile, failed to follow up their 2012 title after a second consecutive quarter-final defeat.
The young White Wolves had secured a fifth consecutive knockout stage appearance after finishing top of Group D ahead of DPR Korea, Yemen and Thailand with a 100% record.
“Today our team played really badly, no plan worked for us in this match. Due to the importance of this match, our players were very nervous and so it was hard to implement our tactics,” said coach Alimkhodjayev.
“Due to the early goal we conceded everything changed. Our players failed to attack because we were worried about letting in a second. That goal ruined everything for us.
“We should work on our psychological side in the future. In the group stage we played averagely but still got the points. In the whole tournament we never showed our full ability.”