Qatar won its first major competition on Friday in Abu Dhabi, beating Japan 3-1 in the Asian Cup final just around three and a half years before hosting the World Cup at home.
It is a historic win for Qatar. The host country of the 2022 World Cup dominated Japan in the utmost important final. The Qataris took the lead in the first half thanks to Ali Almoez (12th minute) and Abdulaziz Hatim (27th minute). The Japanese recovered some hope in the second half on a goal from Takumi Minamino (69th minute) but Akram Afif closed the debates from penalty ten minutes from the end. With 19 goals scored and only one conceded in seven games, the Qataris, who also played their first final, flew over the tournament. They also defeated Australia in this tournament, winner in 2015.
— FIFA.com (@FIFAcom) February 1, 2019
This victory is not only sporting victory for Qatar but takes the form of revenge against rivals from the Gulf region, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, which imposed diplomatic and economic isolation since June 2017. Qatar surprised Japan in the first period with two sublime goals. Ali Almoez, the top scorer of the competition, first scored his ninth goal from a perfectly executed acrobatic turnaround in the 12th minute (1-0). His partner Abdulaziz Hatim then imitated it by scoring from a superb strike from the left just before half an hour. The goal of the hope for Japan from Takumi Minamino in the 69th minute (2-1) certainly brought some cold sweats to the Qatari, but they blew this the last ten minutes as Arkam Afif scored the final goal of the game from the penalty (3-1).
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“We know how to suffer”
“We beat a very strong team,” relished Qatar’s Spanish coach Felix Sanchez after the game. “We played very well in the first period and we had a lot to defend in the second. We suffered but we know how to suffer.” Sanchez continued, “When Japan scored, we were really in big trouble, but we had this penalty and I think this victory is well deserved.” A victory that highlights, in any case, the quality of Qatar in the tournament, victorious seven times in seven games. Of course, Qatar will be keen to prove their metamorphosis next June, on the occasion of its first participation in the Copa America. It will not be an easy task since the draw placed them with Argentina, Colombia and Paraguay. A tournament that will tell a little more about the state of Qatari football, three years before their very first appearance in the World Cup.
The Qataris overcame a hostile reception and intense extra-sporting tensions before winning against Japan. They had to wipe a shower of shoes and projectiles before rolling host country United Arab Emirates 4-0 in the semifinals, though most of their matches almost without supporters, for many banned entry into the country. No jets of shoes this time in the final, played in a serene atmosphere and in the presence of Qatari fans. This success also represents the culmination of years of investment in a long-term project for Qatar, who chose sports in general and football in particular to influence the international scene. This success stems from the famous Doha Aspire Academy, created in 2004 to produce Qatari talents, playing in the national championship and for the country.