India Suffers Heartbreaking Loss to Iraq in King’s Cup 2023 Semifinals
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In a thrilling semi-final match at the 700th Anniversary Stadium, India’s national men’s football team faced Iraq in the King’s Cup 2023 football tournament. The encounter ended in a dramatic penalty shootout, with Iraq emerging victorious, clinching a 5-4 win after the game concluded 2-2 in regular time. This loss means that India will now compete for third place in the tournament on Sunday.
Nail-Biting Semifinal Clash
The semi-final clash between India and Iraq was nothing short of a nail-biter. Both teams displayed immense skill and determination throughout the match. Naorem Mahesh (17′) opened the scoring for India, giving them an early lead. Iraq swiftly responded with Ali Al-Hamadi (28′) finding the back of the net. The drama continued when Jalal Hassan Hachim inadvertently scored an own goal (51′), putting India back in front. However, Iraq’s Aymen Hussein (80′) once again equalized, setting the stage for a tense finale.
Penalty Shootout Drama
With the scores level at 2-2 after regulation time, the fate of the match was decided by a penalty shootout, as no extra time was allowed in the tournament. It was a heart-wrenching moment for India as Brandon Fernandes missed a crucial penalty, resulting in their seventh loss in eight encounters against Iraq.
Absence of Sunil Chhetri
India entered the tournament ranked 99th in the world but without their talismanic captain, Sunil Chhetri, who opted out of the squad due to personal reasons. Despite his absence, the team showed great determination and resilience.
Throughout the game, India, donning their traditional blue jerseys, maintained a deep defensive line and focused on counter-attacks. In contrast, Iraq, the highest-ranked team in the tournament at world No. 70, launched relentless attacks from the outset.
Despite Iraq’s offensive onslaught, India’s defense, led by veteran center-back Sandesh Jinghan, remained resolute. The first half ended with both teams level at 1-1 after Ali Al-Hamadi’s penalty equalizer.
Rollercoaster Second Half
The second half saw India stepping up their offensive efforts. Just five minutes in, they regained the lead when Iraqi goalkeeper Jalal Hassan Hachem mishandled a shot from Manvir Singh, resulting in an own goal.
As the match progressed, Iraq gradually gained dominance in possession and launched waves of attacks. Ten minutes from the final whistle, Iraq equalized once more, with Aymen Hussein converting a penalty.
Nerve-Wracking Penalty Shootout
With neither team able to break the deadlock in regular and extra time, the match entered a nerve-wracking penalty shootout. The tension was palpable as Brandon Fernandes hit the post, sealing India’s fate.
Next Stop: Third-Place Match
Despite the heartbreaking loss, India will look to bounce back in the third-place match against the second losing semifinalists, determined to secure a podium finish in the King’s Cup 2023.
A Glimpse of Past Success
India has tasted success in the King’s Cup before, winning a bronze medal in 2019. On that occasion, the Men in Blue defeated Thailand 1-0 to claim third place after falling to Curacao in the semi-finals.