World Cup 2002 - Asian Qualifiers


the match facts and reports:
Group A
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World Cup 2002 - Asian qualifiers
Group A
Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Thailand, Bahrain
10 weeks of qualifiers played on 10 consecutive weekends
> check THE SHOT LIVE for coverages on weekends

Saudi Arabia - Bahrain 1:1
a disciplined and fighting guest team confirmed their surprise success against Kuwait in the qualifying round by almost upsetting the Saudi Arabians, one of the strong favorites who had been qualified for the last two World Cups.
It took until the 85th minute until a Saudi diagonal pass to the right hand side beat the offside trap, the right wing attacker only had to center the ball to another player who had been in passive offside before and who scored easily. Only two minutes later Bahrain blew a major opportunity to strike back when from a fine counter attack a player, unchallenged, fired across the bar from half right. 
The Saudis, a team known for their gap between the brilliance in midfield and the effectivity inside the penalty areas (defending and attacking), and probably confused by the inconsistency in team building (continous coaching switches) had a late opportunity denied by the Bahrain keeper. Again the offside trap had failed.
Iraq - Thailand  4:0

Iran - Saudi Arabia 2:0
The esssence of this match was less about good football than about refereeing. Both teams played careful and only two Ali Daei opportunities was all a disappointing Iran had until the 55th minute.
Then it seemed a terrible penalty decision decided tha game as it looked like the Saudi keeper clearly played the ball against a broken through Iranian attacker. Ali Daei converted the kick and only 2 minutes later a harsh second yellow card against #19 reduced the Saudi team to 10 men. After 65 minutes Ali Daei benefited from beign not tightly marked and scored by a low diagonal shot from inside the penalty area. 
Both teams showed only few inspired combinations in this match.
Bahrain - Iraq  2:0
For a long time Bahrain dominated the match but only hit the goalpost and blew some big opportunities. 
Until the 58th minute. Then a free kick from good position bounced back from the wall and was squared by #8 to the half left. #13 Jusuf fired directly and it became a brilliantly curved ball into the triangle which left the keeper without a chance. After the goal Bahrain lost the grip but decided the match anyway in the 81st by an opportunistic 12 meter shot by #6 Majed. 
While Iraq were too harmless, Bahrain again left the impression to have received the injection of some German school aspects of the game by their coach Wolfgang Sidka. This makes them a real threat in this group , at least for the play off spot. Iran remain favorites yet...

Thailand - Iran  0:0
It promised to be a good idea to work with high balls from everywhere on the huge Ali Daei against the physically inferior Thai. But the first half game of Iran was dull and became a stereotype in applying the receipe. The quick Thai players even came close to scoring.
Some adjustments at halftime, a couple of substitutions, and Iran came out more variable and with more pace. More opportunities were the logical consequence. But the Thai had had boosted their confidence in the first half and could have taken the lead after 55 minutes through a stunning solorun of their #10. The eventual shot was saved  by the Iranian goalkeeper.
In the course of the match the Iranian game became uninspired again and Thailand had more opportunities after 71 and 76 minutes. Half chances on both sides followed.
Several times Iranian players look like they did not take their counterparts seriously. One of those situations led to the biggest opportunity for Thailand in the 87th minute when a side pass missed an unmarked player in front of the empty goal.
Both had one more opportunity.
Lucky Iran have made 4 points now in two disappointing matches, a good base to build a better game.
Saudi Arabia - Iraq  1:0 (at Bahrain)
Saudi Arabia won the crucial first match against Iraq by a Obeid Al Dossary goal. The matches are both to be played at a neutral venue because of fears after the gulf war 10 years ago. Before the match Saudi Arabia had dismissed another coach in Yugolslav Santrac. 

Iran - Iraq  1:2
Ali Daei scored from 20 meters 6 minutes from time to give Iran 3 valuable points and make them hot favorites to qualify directly from this group. Iraq had taken the lead in first half before Ali Karimi had equalised only a few minutes later.
Bahrain - Thailand  1:1
A totally disappointing match by dark horses Bahrain. The hosts took a first half lead ('17, Al Dossari) by a dangerous free kick cross which curled untouched into the corner. From then on it was all Thailand whose quick attackers cut through the chaotic defence of Bahrain easily. But poor finishing of the Thais, who had not scored a goal before this match, rescued the hosts. Eventually the equaliser came anyway ('64 Sonamuany/'Zico') and woke up the favorites. From then on it was a more balanced match.

Thailand - Saudi-Arabia  1:3
Thailand were leading 1:0 at half but Saudi Arabia came out of the intermission much more determined. Although squandering a lot of good situations by bad coordination and passing, the individual superiority of the Arabian attackers against the Thai defenders made it look easy how Saudi Arabia eventually managed to turn around the game. #9 Al Jaber scored a goal and set up the third one brilliantly.
Iran - Bahrain 0:0

Bahrain - Saudi-Arabia  0:4
Saudi Arabia continued how they had played  the second half of the Thailand match: much sharper than in the matches before and much more according to their talent. The consequence was a more than clear demonstration of the gap between those two, a gap that Bahrain had overcome with good teamwork and commitment in the matches played so far. But confronted with a similarly determined Saudi side the World Cup dream of Bahrain seems to have started to burst.
An opportunistic header by #11 Dossari beat a hesitating defence after a rather harmless looking long cross with 25 minutes played. Against a shocked Bahrain side Saudi Arabia quickly scored a second goal by a fine  combination only 2 minutes later. A stunning free kick from 30 meters by #17 Al Shamrani? decided the match 5 minutes before halftime.
Thailand - Iraq  1:1
It might have been the last chance for both and if this is true the match will have had two losers. 
Iraq dominated the first half,  but it was Thailand who scored by a header against a defence which looked a bit lethargic in that situation. But apart from a few situations Iraq managed well to contain the quick direct attacks the Thai used to run successfully in some of their matches before. 
The pressure of the Iraqi eventually materialised in the second half through the equaliser. Only 2 minutes later a hand penalty for Iraq was brilliantly saved by the keeper of the hosts.
A bit strange was a lot of time wasting towards the end especially by Thailand.
Iraq left a stronger impression than Iran in their match at Thaialnd but lost 2 valuable points though.
Saudi Arabia  5 9-4 10
Iran  4 4-1 8
Bahrain  5 4-6 6
Iraq  5 6-6 4
Thailand  5 3-9 3
group winner qualifies for World Cup 2002

Saudi Arabia - Iran  2:2
After Ali Daei had equalized the Saudi lead (reports: Abdallah Waked '20) short before halftime, Saudi Arabia played out several opportunity and scored a fine goal after 59 minutes (Hassan Yami). Saudi Arbia had more opportunities to decide the match but a huge defensive error gifted the Iranians, who looked a little passive in some situations, with the equalizer 6 minutes to the end (Sirous Dinmohammadi).
Iraq - Bahrain 1:0
reports: goal by Imad Mohamed ('14)
Saudi Arabia  6 11-6 11
Iran  5 6-3 9
Iraq  6 7-6 7
Bahrain  6 4-7 6
Thailand  5 3-9 3
group winner qualifies for World Cup 2002
second for additional play-offs


Iraq - Saudi-Arabia  1:2
Iran - Thailand  1:0
Saudi Arabia  7 13-7 14
Iran  6 7-3 12
Iraq  7 8-8 7
Bahrain  6 4-7 6
Thailand  6 3-10 3
group winner qualifies for World Cup 2002
second for additional play-offs

Thailand - Bahrain  stopped because of electric failure (0:1, 20 minutes played)
replay: 1:1
Iran - Iraq 2:1
reports: Goals by Mehdi Mahdavikia ('27) and Ali Karimi ('71) secured vital three points for Iran in front of a 100,000 crowd at Tehran. Iraq, already out of the qualification picture before the match, had equalised early in second half (Qahtan Drain). Iran are now in the pole position although they have not entirely convinced during the qualifiers.
Saudi Arabia, who had a miserable start, but have rallied to a better performance since, will need a slip up by the Iranians in the last match at Bahrain.
Iran  7 9-4 15
Saudi Arabia  7 13-7 14
Iraq  8 9-10 7
Bahrain  7 5-8 7
Thailand  7 4-11 4
group winner qualifies for World Cup 2002
second for additional play-offs

Bahrain - Iran 3:1
> see detailed match-report
Saudi Arabia - Thailand 4:1
-If Iran win, Saudi Arabia will end up second
-If Iran draw, Saudi Arabia need to win to take first place
-If Iran lose, Saudi Arabia at least need a draw to take first place (provided that goal difference is the tie breaker, which should be)
-first half: 1:0, second half: 2:0, 2:1, 3:1 (pen.), 4:1
Saudi Arabia  8 17-8 17
Iran  8 10-7 15
Bahrain  8 8-9 10
Iraq  8 9-10 7
Thailand  8 5-15 4
group winner qualifies for World Cup 2002
second for additional play-offs


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