India’s hopes shattered as Iraq emerges victorious in the semi-finals of the 2023 King’s Cup, clinching victory in a penalty shootout.
India falls to Iraq in 2023 King’s Cup semi-finals. (Photo: Indian Football/ Twitter)
In a heart-wrenching turn of events, India suffered a devastating penalty shootout defeat at the hands of Iraq in the semi-finals of the 2023 King’s Cup. The exhilarating match took place at the 700th Anniversary Stadium in Thailand and ended with a score of 5-4 in favor of Iraq.
Despite the absence of their star player, Sunil Chhetri, the Indian team displayed remarkable resilience against Iraq, who were ranked 70th in the world. The game was an emotional rollercoaster as India twice took the lead, only to see the match end in a 2-2 draw after regulation time. Naorem Mahesh Singh and an own goal by Iraq’s goalkeeper, Jalal Hasan, accounted for India’s two goals.
Iraq managed to equalize through two penalties. The first was converted by Ali Al-Hamadi of AFC Wimbledon after Sandesh Jhinghan was shown a yellow card for handling the ball in the box. Jhinghan was also involved in the second penalty, fouling Aymen Ghadhban, who coolly converted the spot-kick in the 79th minute to level the game.
Drama unfolded in the dying moments of the match when Zidane Iqbal, a former Manchester United youth academy product, received a red card for a challenge on Brandon Fernandes, reducing Iraq to 10 men in second-half injury time.
With the scores still level after extra time, the game headed into a nerve-wracking penalty shootout. All five Iraqi players successfully converted their penalties, while Brandon Fernandes was unfortunate to hit the right-hand post, resulting in India’s defeat. Aymen Ghadhban sealed Iraq’s victory with a confident strike into the right corner, leaving India’s goalkeeper, Gurpreet, diving in vain.
This loss was particularly poignant for India, who were on the cusp of securing their first-ever victory against Iraq. Despite the heartbreaking defeat, the Indian team’s performance was extraordinary and courageous. They will now compete in the third-placed playoff against either Thailand or Lebanon, determined to end their King’s Cup campaign on a high note.