American into battle for Iraqis in Asian Cup

IRAQ'S hopes of making it to the Asian Cup quarter-finals could rest on a forward who neither speaks the same language of his teammates, or has ever set foot in the Middle Eastern country.

The 2007 champion needs to beat Palestine in its final Group D game in Canberra tonight to progress.

Iraq is a raging-hot favourite to do that after beating Jordan and pushing Japan all the way in a 1-0 defeat last week.

American-born Justin Meram, whose parents were born in Iraq, impressed after coming off the bench in both those games.

"I come from Detroit, where the Muslin population is extremely high. I'm very fortunate and lucky with a lot of people's help to be here," Meram told APN.

"My mother driving me (to training) all the time at four in the morning - I take my hat off to her."

Meram, who plays for Columbus Crew in the Major League Soccer competition in the US, waited almost two years for a clearance to play for Iraq.

"I've never been there, but I'm working with Columbus Crew to get 20 or 30 jerseys sent to Iraq," he said.

Meanwhile, Japan defender Maya Yoshida said his team would be playing for a big win against Jordan in Melbourne tonight, despite all but wrapping up first place in Group D.

"We want to win every single match, and we want to achieve more high targets," the Southampton star said.

The Blue Samurai is on track to play either the UAE or Iran (the runner-up in Group C) in the quarters if it beats Jordan as expected.


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