Iran thru', Iraq close | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 17, 2011 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, January 17, 2011

Iran thru', Iraq close

Iran became the first side to make the Asian Cup quarterfinals on Saturday after beating North Korea 1-0, while defending champions Iraq got a stoppage-time winner to heap misery on the UAE.
Three-time champions Iran are seeking to end a 35-year continental title drought and Karim Ansari Fard moved them a step closer with a 62nd-minute winner as Team Melli fought hard to crack a tight North Korean defence.
It put Iran on six points in Group D following their opening 2-1 victory over Iraq, guaranteeing them a spot in the last eight with one match to play.
Iraq stunned United Arab Emirates when Walid Abbas put the ball into his own net in the third minute of added time to leave the Iraqis well placed in the race for the second qualifying berth.
They now have three points to the one of UAE and North Korea, setting the scene for a nail-biting final round of matches on Wednesday, when Iran play the Emirates and Iraq face the Koreans.
"The qualification of our team into the final eight for me is a fantastic accomplishement," Iran coach Afshin Ghotbi said.
"Our group was a group of death and I still believe it is the most difficult group in the tournament."
While Iran deserved the win, North Korea captain and FC Rostov midfielder Hong Yong-Jo should have equalised in the dying seconds but he sent his shot from close range against the bar to deny his side a precious point.

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