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Iraqis Celebrate Asia Cup Victory


Iraq has completed its fairy-tale conquest of the region's biggest soccer tournament by upsetting Saudi Arabia one-nothing in the Asian Cup finals. Trish Anderton reports for the VOA from Jakarta.

The Saudis came into the final with a white-hot offense, but from the outset Iraq consistently threatened to score. Seventy-one minutes into the game, Iraq's captain Younis Mahmoud headed in a corner kick to give the Iraqis what turned out to be the winning goal.

Saudi Arabia pushed for an equalizer in the closing moments without success. When the clock ran out, the Iraqi players collapsed to the ground in joy and perhaps shock at what they had accomplished.

The match at Jakarta's Gelora Bung Karno stadium was Iraq's first-ever trip to the Asian Cup final. The team's success has given the country a

needed boost in morale. Team members, who include Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds, have spoken of their unity and their hope it will spread to Iraq as a whole.

Iraqis spilled into Baghdad's streets after the match and fired celebratory gunfire, defying a government ban. The authorities barred vehicles from the streets and set up extra checkpoints in an effort to prevent post game violence.

On Wednesday, jubilant Iraqis thronging Baghdad's streets became targets in the country's ongoing violence. Two car bombs ripped through crowds who were celebrating a victory over South Korea in the semi finals. At least 50 people died in those attacks.

Still, officials have pointed to the nationwide support for the team as a sign that Iraq's various factions can come together.

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