Iraq vs Vietnam

Asian Cup Group D ought to produce a enthralling finale as Iraq and Vietnam go head-to-head at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium.

Not even the most optimistic Iraq fans could’ve dreamt the ‘Lions of Mesopotamia’ would beat tournament favorites Japan 2-1 last time out to secure an eighth consecutive appearance in the Asian Cup knockout stages with a game to spare. Following a 3-1 rout of minnows Indonesia on matchday one, the 2007 Asian Cup winners netted two first-half goals for the second Group D outing on the trot to seal a top-place finish regardless of this game’s outcome. However, manager Jesus Casas will unlikely settle for anything less than another triumph, knowing his men have emerged victorious in their last three games against Vietnam. With each win in that sequence yielding a narrow one-goal margin, the Iraqi can’t take anything for granted despite carrying a tag as pre-match favorites.

On the other hand, Vietnam’s hopes of progression hinge on taking three points in this fixture after losing their opening two Group D assignments. While a 4-2 defeat to Japan in a curtain-raising contest wasn’t a surprise by any stretch of the imagination, the ‘Golden Star Warriors’ performed below average in a flat 1-0 loss to Indonesia in the previous round. With four consecutive defeats painting a bleak picture in the build-up to this ‘make or break’ showdown, Vietnam’s chances of reaching the Asian Cup knockouts for the fifth time in their six appearance in the tournament look dead in the water. But if head coach Philippe Troussier can become the first-ever Vietnam boss to claim a win against Iraq (D1, L4), they could still progress as one of the best-ranked third-placed teams.

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