Iraq caused a seismic shift in the Asian Cup, clinching a 2-1 victory over Japan on Friday, marking not only a well-deserved win but a triumph reminiscent of the Miracle of Jakarta in 2007. This victory resonates with the Lions of Mesopotamia’s historic achievement when they secured the Asian Cup by defeating Saudi Arabia 1-0 in the final.
While one win doesn’t guarantee a repeat, Iraq’s ability to upset the odds, much like their victory over Australia in 2007, was evident in their triumph against Japan in Doha. These results underline the exceptional talent within the team.
In 2007, Iraq entered the tournament with modest expectations but an abundance of potential. This time around, a similar narrative unfolds, as they once again defy expectations. Despite Japan’s formidable record of four Asian Cup titles and an impressive run of 11 consecutive victories, Iraq emerged as deserving winners.
The performance was reminiscent of the 2007 campaign, and there was a touch of déjà vu with Aymen Hussein’s stellar display. Hussein, who faced early struggles in his international career, mirrored the feats of Younis Mahmoud, the “Desert Fox,” by scoring two powerful headers against Japan. The echoes of Younis Mahmoud’s legendary goal in the 2007 final were palpable, as if history repeated itself on the Qatari stage.
Coach Jesus Casas seems to have found a potential talisman in Aymen Hussein. Casas has meticulously crafted a playing style that mirrors the 2007 team’s blend of physical strength, hard work, team spirit, and technical skill.
The defensive prowess displayed by Iraq against Japan showcased the effectiveness of Casas’ coaching. Since taking charge in late 2022, the 50-year-old coach has instilled confidence in his players, evident in their joint top scorers from the Gulf Cup, Hussein and Ibrahim Bayesh, who both impressed in the match against Japan.
The Gulf Cup victory served as crucial preparation, instilling confidence in the squad for the Asian Cup. It not only showcased Iraq’s strength but also sent a powerful message to the continent that Japan is beatable. Despite Japan’s status as a world-class team, defensive vulnerabilities, evidenced by conceding four goals in the tournament’s early stages, may pose challenges.
The atmosphere at Education City Stadium, resembling an away game for Japan, saw overwhelming support for Iraq from the 39,000 fans. This support could become a factor in crucial matches, giving hope to other Arab teams like Saudi Arabia.
Ultimately, Iraq’s sweat, skill, and steely mentality proved too much for Asia’s best team. While the journey may not culminate in a second trophy in two decades for the Lions of Mesopotamia, Friday’s victory will be etched in memory as the day Iraq began to believe in their potential.