In the King’s Cup 2023 football tournament, the Indian men’s football team faced a tough loss in the semi-finals, falling to Iraq in a dramatic penalty shootout that ended 5-4 in Iraq’s favor. The match had initially ended in a 2-2 draw after regular playtime, leading to the penalty shootout.
During the regular game, Naorem Mahesh scored an early goal for India in the 17th minute, while Jalal Hassan Hachim unintentionally netted an own goal for India in the 51st minute. Iraq’s Ali Al-Hamadi and Aymen Hussein scored their team’s goals in the 28th and 80th minutes, respectively. India’s star player, Sunil Chhetri, was notably absent from the squad due to personal reasons.
The Indian team, ranked 99th in the world, opted for a defensive approach, looking to capitalize on counter-attacks. In contrast, Iraq, the highest-ranked team in the tournament at 70th in the world, was consistently on the offensive.
India took the lead in the first half against the run of play when Sahal Abdul Samad provided a through ball to Naorem Mahesh, who slotted it past the Iraqi goalkeeper. However, Iraq equalized ten minutes later with a penalty, awarded after Sandesh Jinghan was penalized for a handball in the box, and Ali Al-Hamadi converted it.
The first half concluded with a 1-1 scoreline, and in the second half, India displayed greater attacking intent. India reclaimed the lead when Manvir Singh’s shot resulted in an own goal by the Iraqi goalkeeper, Jalal Hassan Hachem.
As the game progressed, Iraq gained more control and pressed forward. They drew level once more, making it 2-2, with Aymen Hussein successfully converting a penalty after being fouled by Indian defenders in the box.
Iraq made attempts to secure a late victory with long balls, but the Indian defense held strong. Towards the end of the game, Iraq’s Zidane Iqbal was shown a red card, giving India a numerical advantage, but they couldn’t capitalize on it.
The match eventually headed to a tense penalty shootout, where India’s Brandon Fernandes hit the post, sealing Iraq’s victory. India will now compete for third place against the losing semi-finalists from the Thailand vs. Lebanon match on Sunday.
It’s worth noting that India had previously won a bronze medal in the King’s Cup in 2019, finishing third by defeating Thailand 1-0 after losing to Curacao in the semi-finals.