The Indian football team will fight it out for the bronze medal in the 49th edition of the King’s Cup as they went down to Iraq on 5-4 penalties in the semi-final at the 700th Anniversary Stadium, Chiang Mai, in Thailand on Thursday.

Mahesh Naorem (16’) broke the deadlock for India before his goal was cancelled out by Ali Karim (28’) from the spot. The Blue Tigers took the lead again in the second half through an own goal from Iraq goalkeeper Jamal Hasan (51’) before Aymen Hussein (80’) restored parity for the Gulf side late in the game. Both sides headed into the tie-breaker after the scores were tied 2-2 at full-time, where Iraq got the better of Igor Stimac’s side on penalties. 

It was Iraq that had the vast majority of possession in the first half, but chances were far and few between for both sides.

They dominated the ball from the first whistle but a lapse in concentration saw them concede first. Naorem Mahesh received a fine through ball from Sahal Abdul Samad and picked his spot at the near post to give India the lead.

India created another chance soon after through a counter-attack. Akash Mishra and Manvir Singh were involved in a quick give and go, but the latter failed to connect with a cross delivered by Mishra.

Iraq made their way back into the game when Basan Resan’s shot struck Sandesh Jhingan’s arm. India goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu dived the right way, but couldn’t keep out Ali Karim’s spot-kick.

Iraq were presented with an opportunity to take the lead during the 34th minute after winning a free-kick. Karim was on the receiving end of Resan’s free-kick delivery and his attempt was directed onto the post by Sandhu. The India goalkeeper eventually gathered the ball following a melee in the box.  

While Jesus Casas’ side continued to keep possession after the restart, India reclaimed their lead for the second time in the game, courtesy of an error by goalkeeper and Iraq captain Jalal Hasan. Manvir Singh picked out Akash Mishra on the right, who took a swipe at goal. Hasan reached out to collect the ball, but spilled it into his own net.

India defended resolutely as they tried to keep hold of their lead and hit Iraq on the counter-attack. Iraq pushed their opponents on the back foot and their efforts paid off when they won another penalty at the death.

Jhingan was guilty of bringing down Aymen Hussein after a cross was floated at the far post. Hussein stepped up to take the spot kick and drilled his penalty past Sandhu to help Iraq score the equaliser.

Casas’ side were reduced to ten men in injury time when substitute Brandon Fernandes was elbowed in the face by Zidane Ibqal before the game went into penalties.

Fernandes took the first spot, but missed it as his attempt came off the woodwork. India didn’t miss their remaining attempts but it was not enough as Iraq converted all their spot-kicks to make their way into the final.

India will now face the losing team of the other semi-final between hosts Thailand and Lebanon for the third-place playoff clash on Sunday.