Iraqi football team set to face Aussies

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Iraq's football squad have been finalising their preparations for the Olympic quarterfinal against Australia.

updated: February 25, 2007 10:08 IST
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Iraq's football squad have been finalising their preparations for the Olympic quarterfinal against Australia, which takes place in Crete's capital Heraklion on Saturday. The mood seemed good in the Iraqi camp on Friday, and with some of their Australian opponents within earshot, they happily spoke about the popularity of football in their homeland, and what their Olympic performances mean to their people. "We qualified in a very difficult situation, we are proud of our qualification, also now we are qualified for the quarter-finals, and so if we win any medals in this tournament, it will put a smile on the face of all the Iraqi people," said Emad Mohammed, Iraq player. The Iraqis, who had already qualified for the knockout stages, looked a touch listless in their 2-1 defeat to Morocco in their final group match on Wednesday, and will need to improve if they are to make it past Australia. "I would like to tell the people of Iraq that we are ready for this match against Australia, our team wants to win the next match. Insh'allah, we win," Abdul Wahab, Iraq captain. One win away Victory against Australia would put Iraq into the semi-finals, and leave them just one win away from securing just their nation's second Olympic medal. Their only previous medal was bronze in the weightlifting competition at the 1960 Rome Olympics. The team's schedule has certainly been busy in recent months. The majority of the young Iraqi squad were involved in the Asian Cup and they travelled to Europe immediately after their last eight loss in that competition. Safety reasons In qualification matches for the Olympics and Asian Cup, the Iraqis had to play all their matches away from home because of safety reasons. Coach Adnan Hamed has called his players "ambassadors for Iraq" and said that their great displays would lift spirits in their war-torn homeland. Television pictures flashed around the world showed wild scenes of jubilation in Baghdad after Iraq's victories over Portugal and Costa Rica. (AP)