BANGKOK, Oct 22 (Reuters) Mahdi Karim scored four goals to help Asian champions Iraq to a 7-0 victory over Pakistan in their opening 2010 World Cup qualifier in Lahore today.
Hoping to reach the finals for the first time in 24 years, Iraq took control from the start, with striker Karim's performance making up for the absence of injured captain Younis Mahmoud.
Despite being at full-strength with six European-based players in their starting line-up, Pakistan were powerless to stop the war-ravaged country from taking an unassailable lead going into Sunday's second leg.
Playmaker Nashat Akram opened the floodgates on 18 minutes before Karim netted his first six minutes later.
He added Iraq's third four minutes after the break and found the net twice more in the 88th and 90th minute after Jasim Mohammed and Emad Mohammed had found the target in the 71st and 83rd minutes.
The victory was the first for new coach Egil Olsen, who took Norway to the 1994 and 1998 finals and to second place in the FIFA world rankings.
Despite their fairytale Asian Cup victory in July, Iraq's ranking of 65th meant they had to begin their campaign in the first round along with the region's minnows, several of whom have never won an international match.
Asia's top-ranked teams -- Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran and newcomers Australia -- start their qualification in the third round.
Asia has been allotted four-and-a-half berths at the 32-team finals in South Africa.
Iraq will play their first-round home leg in Aleppo, Syria because of security concerns at home.
Reuters AE DB2331