Iraq vs Japan

Education City Stadium forms the backdrop for a top-table Asian Cup Group D six-pointer between Iraq and Japan.

Iraq’s bid to make it out of the Asian Cup group stages for the eighth tournament on the spin was off to a flying start. Two first-half goals inspired the 2007 winners to a comprehensive 3-1 victory against Indonesia in their curtain-raising fixture, marking their third straight win in competitive action. Indeed, the ‘Lions of Mesopotamia’ have enjoyed an impressive start to their 2026 World Cup qualifying campaign, winning both opening games via a combined score of 6-1 in November 2023. But that doesn’t mean they can’t afford to rest on their laurels, especially after only managing two clean sheets across their last 12 internationals. They can find comfort in a decent scoring run, though, having netted 2+ goals in three of their five most recent matches.

It didn’t take long before Japan showcased their full attacking potential in the tournament. Hajime Moriyasu’s side netted three first-half goals in a 4-2 demolition of Vietnam on matchday one to assume control of Group D. It was the fifth consecutive match to see the ‘Samurai Blue’ net 4+ goals, not to mention 11 internationals on the trot, all of which via multi-goal margins. Despite drawing 1-1 in their most recent encounter against Iraq, this fixture has Japan’s landslide victory written all over it, with the tournament favorites winning their seven previous H2Hs, including five without conceding. While it’s hard to put it past Japan to keep another clean sheet here, it’s worth mentioning they’ve failed to do that in their last two outings after racking up four shutouts in a row beforehand.

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