Iraq the ‘moral victors’, says Milutinovic

Iraq take their leave of the Confederations Cup without a goal to their name but their tactical nous has left good impressions on South Africa.

Iraq’s inability to break down New Zealand on Saturday scuppered their hopes of making it into the semifinals in place of the hosts.

But despite the disappointment coach Bora Milutinovic believed his Asian champions had acquitted themselves well and the canny Serb predicted a bright future for Nashat Akram and his fellow players.

”Normally I am not happy when my side doesn’t go through, but what they did and the way they played makes me very happy. They are moral victors,” said Milutinovic, whose own future as the national coach is uncertain.

Reflecting on Iraq’s performances at the Confed Cup, a 0-0 draw with the hosts, a 1-0 loss to Spain and Saturday’s stalemate, he commented: ”After these three matches, I can say that in each one our players have shown that they can play a good game of football.

”They have an extraordinary tactical discipline that makes me very proud and the only thing I hope is that they’ll be able to play football with all freedom, enjoy life and bring a lot of joy to the people of Iraq.”

While the Lions of Mesopotamia won’t be around Milutinovic expressed confidence that the 2010 World Cup finals, the first to be staged in Africa, would be a winner.

”Everybody connected with the World Cup is going to have to make the utmost effort to help South Africa make a success of the World Cup because Africa deserves it.

”I’m confident with everyone’s help it will be a success.”

Iraq striker Younis Mahmoud said he and his teammates could leave the country proud of what they had achieved.

”It was a fantastic tournament for us with some great teams and although we’re disappointed that we didn’t reach the semifinals, we’re still very proud.”

Akram, who will be playing for Dutch side FC Twente next season, added: ”I hope the people in my country understand that we really wanted to make it to the last four, but we didn’t — and that’s how football works sometimes.

”In the future, we want to bring them happiness.” – AFP

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