DOHA (Reuters) - A late goal by striker Hammadi Ahmed gave a youthful Iraq a vital 1-0 victory over Jordan in World Cup qualifying on Wednesday, thrusting them back into contention for a place in Brazil.
Jordan had wasted a number of good chances to break the deadlock before Ahmed took advantage of the space afforded to him on the edge of the area to fire home a fierce 20-metre shot in the 86th minute.
The victory was Iraq’s first in Group B of the fourth round of Asian qualifying and moved them on to five points from five matches, one ahead of Jordan and level with second-placed Australia and Oman.
Japan lead the way on 13 points after beating Oman 2-1 in Muscat and are heavy favorites to take one of the two guaranteed qualifying berths from the group.
Iraq, forced to play their home matches in Qatar by FIFA because of security issues at home, looked least likely to qualify before Wednesday’s match after some disappointing results and without a number of key individuals against Jordan.
Brazilian coach Zico named a side full of 20-year-olds who struggled in a dire first half of few chances between two sides who were meeting for the fourth time in this World Cup campaign, having played home and away in the third round.
The game sprang to life in the last 30 minutes, however, with Jordan’s Hasan Mahmoud denied brilliantly from seven meters out by Iraq goalkeeper Noor Sabri.
Another sharp shot by Mahmoud was palmed away by Sabri in the 72nd minute before the Iraq goalkeeper was caught out of position four minutes later only for his team mates to scramble two efforts off the goal line.
Ahmed then scored on a counter-attack but Sabri secured the man-of-the-match honors by clawing away another close-range Jordan effort by substitute Hamza Al Daradreh in the 89th minute.
The goalkeeper palmed the ball into the air as he fell backwards towards the goal line before pushing it away just in time at the second attempt as a Jordan attacker closed.
Jordan next face a tricky task at home to Japan in March, while 2007 Asian champions Iraq play their final three qualifiers in June away to Oman and Australia with a ‘home’ tie against the Blue Samurai in between.
Reporting by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; Editing by Clare Fallon