Qatar stuns Japan in Asian Cup final for 1st major title

03 February, 2019, 21:00 | Author: Amy Huff
  • Qatar's defender Hamid Ismeil celebrates his goal during their 2019 AFC Asian Cup semi-final match against UAE at the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi

Japan gained enormous popularity at last summer's World Cup when they took the time to clean their changing room after a gut-wrenching last-16 exit to Belgium when they blew a two-goal lead.

Qatari team line up for the anthems before the AFC Asian Cup semifinal soccer match between United Arab Emirates and Qatar at Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019.

By this win, Qatar completed an improbable run to glory for the Gulf nation as it prepares to host the 2022 World Cup.

Although the tournament was originally scheduled to be held in the summer, Federation Internationale de Football Association organizers switched it to November and December 2022 due to scorching weather.

"We are only focused on the game we're going to play tomorrow, any other things not related to football is not in our minds at the moment", Qatar's Spanish coach Felix Sanchez told Reuters. Winning a championship with the national team has a different emotion to it.

Japan's sustained pressure in the final third paid off soon afterward, however, when Minamino broke through for his first goal of the tournament.

The decision to promote Sanchez, a long-term youth coach in the country, to the senior team was inspired.

At the final, they turned out in huge numbers with maroon scarves emblazoned with the world "Qatar" in Arabic over their heads.

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Ali was named Player of the Tournament but the award could easily have gone to his skilful forward partner Akram Afif, who sealed the title for Qatar when he coolly despatched a spot kick for the final goal of the 17th Asian Cup.

Japan, chasing a record-extending fifth title, started the brighter but it was the Qataris who drew first blood through the prolific Ali, who was later named Player of the Tournament.

Having blocked off direct travel to Qatar since June 2017, the UAE made no exemptions even to smooth the journey of the country's Asian Cup team.

It is less than four years to the next World Cup, and as hosts, Qatar do not need to qualify.

"But no excuses, Qatar played well", added the Southampton defender. It was hard to argue with his analysis given the standard of some of the football at the first Asian Cup featuring an expanded 24-team field. "We conceded the first goal because there was a mis-match between the Japan and Qatar systems", he said.

"All the players are working with us, so no worries".

"That's one of the toughest ways to lose", said a distraught Yoshida. "To us it's no surprise that we are in the final", said the Spaniard, who has received messages of support from Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger. "We beat an outstanding, outstanding team", Sanchez said.

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