Iraq shut out of Confederations Cup

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Iraq's head coach Bora Milutinovic shouts at his team during a Group A match between Iraq and New Zealand at the FIFA Confederations Cup in Johannesburg, South Africa, June 20, 2009. The match ended with a 0-0 tie.

JOHANNESBURG, June 20 -- The whistle of the referee on Saturday dashed the hope of Asian champions Iraq to reach the Confederations Cup semifinals.

The match ended with a goalless draw with New Zealand.

Iraq had stood a slim chance to grab the remaining semifinal slot from Group A after the first one went to European champion Spain who collected six points in two matches and host South Africa defeated New Zealand 2-0 on Wednesday in Rustenburg.

The Asian and Oceanian champions had been the only two teams yet to win a game in the group. A win by sufficient goals could send Iraq back to the track to the semifinals.

New Zealand staged a more threatening performance and had the majority of possession in the first half. New Zealand made nine shots throughout the match, against Iraq's three.

Several good chances fell on the Oceanian champions but all slipped away. New Zealand forward Chris Killen narrowly missed the shot from inside the penalty area with little pressure on him in the 14th minute after teammate Jeremy Brockie delivered a perfect cross.

In the second half, Iraq's coach Bora Milutinovic decided to change the game by bringing on forward Alaa Abdul Zahra and Salih Sadir for Imad and Mahdi Kareem, but it didn't work.

Milutinovic has led five different squads into the World Cup finals.

The Serb did not reveal his plan after the inter-continental tournament, but he hailed the performance of his players.

"Although with little time together, the Iraqi players had excellent performance. I thank them for their support," he said.

"I hope the boys are able to play football with freedom in Iraq, bring happiness to Iraqi people. The boys have tried their best."

For next year's World Cup host, the coach called for support from everybody participating in the Confederations Cup. "South Africa deserves it and Africa deserves it," he said.

In the other Group A match, European champion Spain thrashed South Africa 2-0. The result however sent both sides into the semifinals.

The final round of Group B match will be played on Sunday in Rustenburg and Pretoria.