Three feel-good stories from World Cup qualifying
Despite fielding only one professional player, the civil war-- torn Solomons tied regional power Australia 2--2 in Adelaide, a result that contributed to the elimination of New Zealand (which was upset by Vanuatu). Solomons Prime Minister Allen Kemakeza greeted the team as businesses closed and tens of thousands of islanders welcomed their lads back to Honiara.
In Lusaka, 41year-old coach Kalusha Bwalya came out of retirement and scored in Zambia's 1--0 victory over Liberia. Bwalya, who helped rebuild the country's soccer program after a 1993 plane crash killed 18 national team players, has his squad tied with Togo and Senegal for first in its qualifying group.
After its under23 team made the Olympic semifinals, Iraq's senior team can reach Asia's final round if it wins at "home" in Doha, Qatar (where the games have been moved for security reasons), against Uzbekistan on Oct. 12 and Palestine on Nov. 16. Because the Asian fifth-place team takes on the CONCACAF fourth-place team for a World Cup spot, it's conceivable that Iraq could play a win-or-go-home series against ... the U.S.