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Tehran: Iraq scored three times in the final ten minutes of their opening match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup/2019 AFC Asian Cup joint-qualifiers on Thursday as the 2007 AFC Asian Cup champions kicked-off their Group with an assured 5-1 win over Chinese Taipei.

Ali Adnan, the 2013 AFC Youth Player of the Year, gave Iraq the lead with eight minutes of the first half remaining before Ali Hisny Faisal added to the Udinese left-back’s opener with Iraq’s second in the 59th minute.

The Lions of Mesopotamia extended their lead in the 80th minute through Ahmed Yasin, who scored twice as Iraq reached the semi-finals of the 2015 AFC Asian Cup, before Wen Chih-hao looked to have given the result a more flattering perspective for Chinese Taipei when the China-based midfielder got the East Asians on the scoreboard with four minutes left of the 90 remaining.

However, the scoring didn’t end there as skipper Younis Mahmood, who netted the winner in Iraq’s 2007 AFC Asian Cup final victory over Saudi Arabia, restored his side’s three-goal advantage two minutes later before USA-born forward Justim Hikmat Azeez sealed the 5-1 win with a penalty one minute into stoppage time.

Iraq are next in action on Tuesday when they face Group F leaders Thailand, who top the table after wins over Vietnam (1-0) and Chinese Taipei (2-0), while the East Asians will look to avoid a third consecutive defeat when they host Vietnam on the same day.

The group winners and four best runners-up (total 12 teams) will advance to the 2019 AFC Asian Cup finals and the final round of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

The next best 24 teams from the preliminary stage of the joint qualifiers will compete in a separate competition for the remaining slots (12 slots or 11 slots + 1 slot for the host) in the 24-team 2019 Asian Cup.

Photo: IRIFF

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