Monday, April 22, 2024

Defending champions Qatar take on high flying Jordan in all-Arab final


Share post:


DOHA, Feb 9 : An Asian Cup that began with stars from across Europe’s top leagues has delivered an unexpected final.
On Saturday, at the spectacular Lusail Stadium, host and defending champion Qatar will play Jordan, with neither team featuring players of wide renown.
Premier League players like Son Heung-min (Tottenham) and Wataru Endo (Liverpool) have departed. Likewise Paris Saint-Germain’s Lee Kang-in and Roma’s on-loan forward Sardar Azmoun.
It’s the same story with notable coaches Roberto Mancini (Saudi Arabia) and South Korea’s Jurgen Klinsmann in a tournament that has cut big names down to size.
“The tournament shows football is evolving and developing,” Qatar coach Marquez Lopez said. “Every day there are more demands on Asian football. The upcoming generation can play beautiful football.” Four-time champion Japan was the pre-tournament favorite, with South Korea and Australia also tipped as potential winners.
Despite being the defending champion, Qatar was not among the top picks to triumph in its own country.
Perhaps that was because of memories of the World Cup when it was eliminated from its own tournament after three-straight defeats in the group stage.
Just over a year on and it feels like a very different team.
“A month before the tournament no one expected us to reach the final. No one thought we would be delivering this performance,” Qatar captain Hassan Al-Haydos said. “Being here. Sitting here, talking here. This is my response. I’m playing in the final.” While the quality of the Asian Cup cannot rival the World Cup, the improvement in Qatar is still unexpected. Marquez’s team has outperformed Japan, South Korea and Australia, which all advanced to the knockout stage of the World Cup. It has played with an attacking freedom that was not evident when it hosted football’s biggest tournament.
While that could partly be put down to Lopez, who was only hired in December, former coach Felix Sanchez had won the previous edition of the Asian Cup before the World Cup disappointment.
Qatar’s Akram Afif has arguably been the standout player of the Asian Cup.
He spoke earlier in the tournament of his wish to return to Europe after failing to make an impact in spells in Spain and Belgium before moving to Al Sadd in his homeland. He has likely improved his chances with five goals and some thrilling performances to help carry his country to the final.
Of the two finalists, Jordan is the only team to include a player currently playing in Europe – Montpellier’s Mousa Tamari. All of Qatar’s players are home-based.
Despite this, Jordan coach Hussein Ammouta is encouraged by the standard of players on display in the tournament.
“Asian football is developing so much and producing high quality players wanted by big European teams,” he said. “Every country would like those good players who can contribute to the national team and find their way to big European leagues.”
Jordan beat South Korea in the semifinals and is playing in its first Asian Cup final, having never previously advanced beyond the quarterfinals.
Qatar won the trophy for the first time in 2019 and is one game away from back-to-back titles. (PTI)


Related articles

Indians can now apply for a multiple entry Schengen visa with longer validity

New Delhi, April 22:  Constantly working to deepen and broaden political ties with India, the European Union (EU)...

Govt employee shot dead by terrorists in J&K’s Rajouri

Jammu, April 22: A government employee was shot by terrorists in J&K’s Rajouri district on Monday evening and...

Bommai, Shivakumar trade barbs over PM Modi’s ‘infiltrator’ remark

Bengaluru, April 22: Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in the state, the BJP and the Congress is...

Soumya murder case: SC issues notice on plea of slain scribe’s mother challenging bail to 4 convicts

New Delhi, April 22:  The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to examine a plea filed by the mother...