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BASRA, Jan 21, (AP): Iraq won the Gulf Cup for the first time since 1988 with a 3-2 victory over Oman on Thursday but the triumph was marred by a deadly stampede outside the Basra International Stadium. The disaster could have repercussions for the country’s 2026 World Cup hopes. As fans tried to get into the stadium hours before kickoff, there was a crush that killed at least two people and injured dozens, a health official said.
It was a blow for organizers of the first international soccer tournament hosted in Iraq since 1979 as the bigger prize of hosting 2026 World Cup qualifiers seemed to be within reach. Due to security concerns, Iraq has staged only two World Cup qualifiers since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003, against Jordan in the northern city of Erbil in 2011 and Hong Kong in Basra eight years later. All other competitive games involving the national team have been played in neighboring countries such as Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.