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Iraqis celebrate soccer victory against Australia


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Iraqis celebrate soccer victory against Australia with shooting in the air

BAGHDAD (AP) - Thousands of Iraqis poured into the street, dancing, chanting and firing shots into the air in celebration after their national soccer team defeated Australia, a country many here see as an occupation force.

Iraq stunned Australia with a 3-1 victory Friday in the Asian Cup Group A match in Thailand, putting the pre-tournament favourites on the verge of a humiliating early exit from the competition.

Shortly after the referee blew the whistle ending the game, sporadic gunfire could be heard in central Baghdad. People who had been glued to their television sets dashed into the streets of the capital to celebrate - a welcome reason to cheer for residents who live in daily fear of attacks and suffer from unemployment as high as 70 per cent.

In Baghdad's central neighbourhood of Karradah, hundreds of young men waved Iraqi flags and chanted slogans supporting their soccer team. The fans were on motorcycles, in cars and even on top of buses. Some took off their T-shirts and waved them. Drivers stopped their vehicles in the middle of the street and went out to dance.

"Despite all of what is happening, the most important thing for us is Iraq. Soccer unites Iraq. Long live Iraq," a man shouted from inside his car before driving away.

Australia, a close U.S. ally, has 1,000 troops inside Iraq and another 600 providing air and naval support in the region.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard sent 2,000 troops to support U.S. and British forces in the Iraq invasion in 2003. One Australian soldier has been killed since the war began, as has an Australian-British dual citizen who was flying with the British air force.

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Hate to see politics mixed with sport. Australia looked totally beatable against Oman and got what they deserved. They look like they're playing rec. league soccer out there I hope this wakes them up and they play to their potential.

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