Iraq's surprising soccer run came up short with a 1-0 loss to Italy in a bronze medal game that couldn't escape reminders of violence in the war-torn country.
Just before kickoff last night in Thessaloniki, the teams exchanged words of condolence for Italian journalist Enzo Baldoni, who was killed by Iraqi militants seeking to force Italy's troops out of Iraq. Italian players also wore black armbands to honor Baldoni.
Alberto Gilardino's header in the eighth minute sealed Italy's first soccer medal since it won gold in 1936. But with the somber mood surrounding the game, and just 5,000 fans in 23,000-seat Kaftanzoglio Stadium, even the Italians didn't feel like celebrating.
"It was not a very good game," said Italy Coach Claudio Gentile. "We wanted to show our feeling toward the family Baldoni but we are not now even in the mood to enjoy our victory."
Iraq Coach Adnan Hamad said his players also felt flat and sent their condolences to "our brothers and friends from Italy."
The loss meant the Iraqis go home without a medal after seeking to win the nation's first medal of any kind since 1960.
"To reach the semifinal is a big achievement for our team under our circumstances," Hamad said. "But we wanted to win the game and to have a bronze medal to bring happiness to our people."
-- From News Services