Qatar's Asian Cup triumph offers hope of 2022 respectability

Bora Milutinovic

Japan looked forward to winning the 5 Asian title but they had been stunned in the final with the 3-1 defeat by Qatar at the United Arab Emirates.

Qatar have reached the final having scored 16 goals while conceding none in their six matches, but Sanchez conceded facing the tournament's most successful side was a whole new challenge. "We conceded the first goal because there was a mis-match between the Japan and Qatar systems", he said.

Qatar captain Hasan Al Haydos echoed Yoshida's call for calm as the 2022 World Cup hosts aim to complete a shock triumph in a tournament where they have never previously progressed beyond the quarter-finals.

Undoubtedly Almoez Ali was the star of the show - his stunning bicycle kick in the final against Japan making the 23-year-old forward the first player to score nine goals at a single Asian Cup. "It's a great day for me and the players and the country", Sanchez said.

Their fans have been unable to travel across the Gulf to support the team because of the current political rift between Qatar and the UAE and the players appear determined to take a first major worldwide trophy home to them.

Ali, who graduated from Qatar's Aspire Academy, said the next step he wanted to take in his career was a move to a European club.

There was an angry reaction from the home crowd in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday as the UAE were routed in the semi-final, with shoes thrown at Qatari players after striker Almoez Ali scored the second goal in a 4-0 win.




For his part, AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa has hailed Qatar for creating history in claiming a first-ever AFC Asian Cup title.

Team officials revealed that Lux was a smash hit with the ladies back in Kyrgyzstan - but the bashful hunk insisted he would rather hide out in his hotel than get the David Beckham treatment.

"I don't want to see any stupid things after the game because we are really representing Asia", Southampton defender Yoshida told reporters.

"[Their performance was] not a surprise for me, we knew Qatar can have a tight defence and strength in attack", said beaten Japanese coach Hajime Moriyasu. In the last years, this group of players worked in the right direction with the right mentality to be in the top of the competition.

Japan had won all four of their previous appearances in the final of the continental tournament, but they were unable to come from behind against Qatar, who went into the match as underdogs.

"These players, they are incredible in the way they are working and the effort they are putting in to be here and to have this performance. We get along very well together too".

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