Not even the most fanatic Iraqi supporter would have vouched for their side reaching this far of the competition not to talk about the fact that of the four teams going into today’s final round of matches, they are the only side not to have lost a game in regulation time. The Iraqis lost 7-6 on penalties to the Uruguayans after drawing 1-1 in regulation time.
That is how far Iraqi football has come and credit would have to be given to every single member of Team Iraq in Turkey for this phenomenal record. They have played some breath taking side reminiscent of a Brazilian or Spanish side and have scored some incredible goals.
Such is the flair and tenacity of the side that they won over the locals in all the cities they played in. Going into the tournament, members of the entire Iraqi team may barely have been known to anyone out there but on the back of what they have achieved, it will be difficult to rule them out of taking home the bronze medal.
It has been an extraordinary tournament for Ghana, who opened with two straight defeats, scraped into the knockout stages as the fourth best third-placed team, and then twice came from behind to reach the semi-finals. In the circumstances, the Africans will be more determined than ever to finish on a winning note, and are likely to go on the attack as soon as the whistles goes tomorrow.
The ingredients are certainly in place for an absorbing and entertaining encounter. It is a meeting between teams who both favour a pacy attacking game, always looking for the fastest way to open up a shooting chance. Furthermore, both teams boast a bevy of hard-running, agile and highly skilled starlets.
There is an intriguing subplot in the goal scoring stakes, with Ghana hitman Ebenezer Assifuah on five goals and Iraq striker Farhan Shakor on three. The leader in the scoring chart at the moment, Portugal's Bruma, scored his five goals in fewer playing minutes than Assifuah, but his team exited the tournament in the last sixteen, so the adidas Golden Boot is a tantalizing prize on offer to the leading marksman on each side.
The two managers as usual had their take on the game with Iraq’s Shakir believing that his team could pull it off against Ghana. “Not many people expect us to go very far in this tournament, but I believe we can,"
Ghanaian boss Sellas Tetteh believes that the team should go out and enjoy themselves and that it will be worth going back home with at least a bronze medal.
“I want my players to be happy, because that’s fundamental. They should enjoy themselves, but within reason."
A game of intrigues awaits the world the world at the Turk Telekom Arena later today. Kick-off is at 15:00 GMT.