- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 28, 2015

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) - After falling one game short of an Asian Cup finals appearance, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates will play for Middle Eastern supremacy in the third-place playoff in Newcastle on Friday.

Iraq lost to South Korea 2-0 and the UAE went down to host Australia 2-0 in the semifinals this week, eliminating the last chance of a west Asian team reaching the final.

Iraq, the 2007 Asian Cup champion, struggled for opportunities against South Korea’s solid defense in Sydney, despite the best efforts of talismanic striker Younis Mahmoud.

“I know they (South Korea) won and went to the final but we won also, we won 20 (experienced) players,” said Mahmoud, who says he’s turning his attention to the 2018 World cup qualifiers, “They will benefit the national team for the next 10 years.”

UAE, which knocked out defending champion Japan 5-4 on penalties in the quarterfinals, couldn’t find a breakthrough against Australia despite another leading performance by star Omar Abdulrahman.

After an impressive run to the semifinals, UAE coach Mahdi Ali conceded his players lacked the focus to progress further.

“This is a big lesson and we need to learn you have to concentrate for 90 minutes and mistakes are not acceptable as you lose the game,” Ali said.

The UAE and Iraq have met twice before in the Asian Cup, with each team winning one match each.

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