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Iraq confident Australia clash will go ahead

SoccerNews in World Cup 28 May 2008

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Iraq are confident of playing Australia in their World Cup qualifier this weekend, but have been rattled by moves back home that could see the game abandoned, coach Adnan Hamad said Wednesday.

The match is under a cloud after world governing body FIFA said Iraq would be suspended from international competition for a year unless the Iraqi government reinstated the Iraq Football Association by midnight on Thursday (1400GMT).

The Iraqi government said it sacked its national Olympic committee, and all sports federations, because it had lacked a quorum to conduct its meetings and had not held elections for more than five years.

The Iraqis arrived in Australia late Tuesday after a friendly in Thailand where the Asian champions lost 2-1 after news of the developments back home broke.

Hamad said the players struggled to put the turmoil out of their minds and focus on football.

“Against Thailand, the players were all affected by what was happening now and lost all concentration,” he said through a translator.

“This is an important game after losing to Qatar (2-0) and that is why we will try and make the players feel most comfortable but as you know that is very hard.”

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has called on Iraq to back down from its political interference in its national football federation but said Tuesday he had a “good feeling” that Sunday’s qualifier in Brisbane would go ahead.

Hamad said the Iraqi people would suffer if his team were banned.

“Soccer brings happiness to the Iraqi people who are living in hardship back home,” he said. “Soccer would lose a big team in Iraq.”

The coach said the Socceroos had underestimated his team in the past but that they would approach the contest differently this time.

“Of course, after the game against Iraq in the Asian Cup (in 2007, when Iraq beat Australia 3-1) they are preparing better and are more focused on Iraq,” he said.

“The Australian team is an excellent team and we have to respect them and they have higher chances of qualifying for the next round.”

Iraq are placed last in the four-team qualifying group which also includes China and Qatar.

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