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Charbel Shamoon headed to AFC U20 Asian Cup Final with Iraq

Charbel Shamoon Western United

Charbel Shamoon and the Iraq Under-20 national team will have the special opportunity to compete in the final of the 2023 AFC U20 Asian Cup.

Having already secured a place at the FIFA U20 World Cup by reaching the semi-final, Iraq went one better with a penalty shootout win over Japan to advance to the showpiece event.

Shamoon was straight back into the starting line-up after serving a three-match suspension for what was a dubious sending off in Iraq’s opening group stage match against Indonesia.

An unsuccessful appeal extended Shamoon’s ban but the Western United Academy star returned to the team with immediate effect.

Shamoon had started that match against Indonesia as a right-winger but took up a position at right-back this time, a spot that he has made his own in the Western United Under 23’s.

Iraq got off to a dream start in the semi-final, exhibiting great attacking intent and taking the lead on 12 minutes when Ali Jasim’s diving header bounced into the corner of the net.

Shamoon was involved both in and out of possession throughout a pulsating contest, with chances evenly spread at either end but Japan holding the edge in the possession battle.

Wearing the No.20 on his back, Shamoon and the back four did superbly to keep Japan at arm’s length throughout almost the entirety of the match, but the Blue Samurai equalised seven minutes from time.

Takatora Einaga bent a stunning strike with his left foot into the opposite corner from the right-hand side of the penalty area, with Shamoon helpless as he tried desperately to get to the goal line and clear the ball.

Shamoon was substituted at the end of the regulation 90 minutes but his teammates continued their brilliant performance, retaking the lead thanks to Mohammed Jameel’s close-range finish just before half-time of extra-time.

As Iraq sought to hold onto the result and avoid a shootout, Japan repeated the feat of the 90 minutes in equalising at the death, leaving it even later with a 118th minute header meaning penalties would be needed to separate the two sides.

Iraq were flawless from 12 yards and Kodai Sano missed Japan’s third spot kick, allowing captain Abdulrazzaq Qasim to seal a 5-3 penalty shootout win.

This will be Iraq’s seventh appearance in the AFC U20 Asian Cup Final, the nation having won in five of their previous six appearances.

Their last attempt at the silverware was a successful one in 2000 and could be a good omen for 2023. The final was won against Japan and Emad Mohammed, the team’s current head coach, scored the golden goal in extra-time.

Iraq will face host nation Uzbekistan in the final, a rematch of the second game in Group A two weeks ago, which Uzbekistan won 1-0.

Shamoon will be involved this time, though, and he and his teammates will be aiming to etch their name into their country’s history books and lift the title.