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Kuala Lumpur: We continue our delve into the archives by rewinding to the 2007 AFC Asian Cup when Iraq achieved what is still arguably the most stunning triumph in Asian football history.

It was the proverbial David versus Goliath contest as a band of battlers from a war-torn and divided nation came together as one to take on a genuine Asian football superpower: well-financed, well-prepared and ready to claim the coveted trophy for the fourth time in what was their sixth appearance in the final since 1984. It was Iraq versus Saudi Arabia and it was the climax to one of the most memorable tournaments on record.

No one had really given Iraq a chance. Their country was in tatters and there was sectarian violence on a daily basis, making it hard to focus on football when the safety of family and friends are foremost in the mind.

But with barely two months preparation Iraq overcame the odds and embarked on an undefeated run that would take them all the way to a final showdown with the mighty Saudis.

Iraq opened their campaign with a 1-1 draw against group hosts Thailand at a rain-soaked Rajamangala before stunning Australia and their Europe-based stars with a thoroughly-deserved 3-1 victory.

Iraq rounded off their group stage campaign with a goalless draw with Oman, topping the table to set up a quarter-final clash with Vietnam, which they duly won 2-0 courtesy of a Younis Mahmood double.

Their reward for winning was a semi-final with Korea Republic in Kuala Lumpur and with both sides cancelling each other out after 120 minutes of action at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium the tie went to penalties.

The Iraqis scored all their spot-kicks while Yeom Ki-hun and Kim Jung-woo failing to find the target to give the West Asians a 4-3 victory and a place in the 2007 AFC Asian Cup final; a scenario few expected when the tournament kicked-off.

The final was the last chapter in what the media had embraced as Iraq's "fairytale" and it was to have a happy ending as the Lions of Mesopotamia fought tooth-and-nail to claim Asian Cup glory against the odds.

Roared on by the overwhelming majority packed into Jakarta's Bung Karno Stadium, the Iraqis refused to let the Saudis play their brand of free flowing football and a 72nd minute winner from tournament MVP Mahmood sealed the historic triumph that dominated the sporting headlines worldwide and, temporarily at least, united a fractured nation.

Photo: AFP

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