Iraq looked forward to their Confederations Cup clash with South Africa today by stating that victory in the tournament would be 'exactly what we need to turn our country around'.
While some have questioned the value of this 'dry run' for the World Cup, which pits jaded and uninterested teams against each other at the tail-end of an already ruinously long football season, Iraqi captain Younis Mahmoud told press that winning the tournament would 'make up for a pretty disappointing decade' in the country's history.
'It's been a bit up-and-down recently,' Mahmoud said of his nation's morale, 'what with being invaded by the world's biggest superpower, having innocent civilians killed in their homes, watching our infrastructure collapse, being laid bare to bloody civil disputes, and receiving hardly any support from the international community. So lifting the Confederations Cup would obviously put a smile back on everyone's face.'
Mahmoud told reporters that people back home in Baghdad were 'crowded around their TVs' ahead of the South Africa clash, though that was partly because 'hardly anyone has one these days, since America and Britain destroyed almost every square inch of what we had spent our lives building up'. This remark momentarily stalled the press conference, but Mahmoud quickly recovered, adding: 'Anyway, the lads have done great to get here and we'll be giving it one hundred and ten percent. Which is roughly the rate of inflation in our shattered economy.'
But the Iraqis face stiff competition for the pointless trophy from hosts South Africa, whose Football Association are hoping that a win would 'momentarily deflect attention from our continued, appalling social inequalities and violence'.
The hype ahead of the Iraq-South Africa showdown has raised expectation levels around a tournament which had previously struggled to capture the imagination of the football world. Even organiser Danny Jordaan kicked off proceedings at the Opening Ceremony by wishing teams and officials 'a happy stay at this almost totally irrelevant affair', while the official song for the Confederations Cup, performed by Ladysmith Black Mambazo, is entitled 'Let's Do This, Then, I Guess'.