Asian Cup: Iraq edges South Korea, in final

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Noor Sabri made the crucial save and Iraq advanced to its first Asian Cup final by winning a penalty shootout 4-3 over South Korea on Wednesday.

Updated: July 26, 2007 17:20 IST
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Kuala Lumpur:

Noor Sabri made the crucial save and Iraq advanced to its first Asian Cup final by winning a penalty shootout 4-3 over South Korea on Wednesday.

With the shootout tied at 3-3, the Iraqi goalkeeper tipped Yeom Ki-hun's left-foot stab around the right post to give his side the edge in the shootout, after regulation and extra time failed to produce a goal.

After Iraq converted its fourth penalty, Kim Jung-woo had to convert to keep the game alive, but his shot hit the right post, prompting the Iraqis to swamp Sabri in celebration.

With their unlikely run through the tournament drawing wide attention and causing rare joy in their war-torn homeland, the Iraqis go into Sunday's final as sentimental favorites.

Iraq will meet the winner of Wednesday's later match between defending champion Japan and Saudi Arabia.

The South Koreans faced a shootout for the second time in four days, having advanced over three-time champion Iran 4-2 on penalties in Sunday's quarterfinal at the same venue.

Both teams missed earlier chances to win.

Iraq missed the go-ahead goal by an inch late in the first period of extra time when Hawar Mulla's shot from Lee Woon-jae's fingertip deflection hit the near post and Kim Jin-kyu cleared it off his line.

Ahmed Menajed created a chance in the second period of extra time as Lee rushed forwards, but his cross was poor and missed Younis Mahmoud in good position.

Neither team dominated the first half in greasy conditions after a pre-match downpour, although Mahmoud angled his left-foot shot wide and across the goal just before half time.

The Koreans pressed relentlessly in the second.

Lee Chun-soo volleyed into the side netting in the 70th minute and Yeom missed with his first-time freekick and a rebound from the edge of the area in the last seconds.

But as the Koreans started to tire, the Iraqis started to find space and were unlucky not to clinch it in extra time.

Iraq topped Group A following a 3-1 win over pre-tournament favorite Australia and reached its first Asian Cup semifinal since 1976 with a comfortable 2-0 win over Vietnam at Bangkok on Saturday.

That ended a run of three consecutive quarterfinal defeats for the Iraqis at the continental championship and sparked celebratory gunfire in the streets of Baghdad.

The South Koreans, World Cup semifinalists in 2002, had not reached a final at the Asian Cup since losing the 1988 decider to Saudi Arabia on penalties.

South Korea won the first two editions but have been unable to add another title since 1960.

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