Impressive Qatar stun Japan to lift 2019 Asian Cup
The Maroons went into the game as underdogs against the Samurai Blue but goals from Almoez Ali, Abdulaziz Hatem and Akram Afif did the job.
Almoez Ali opened the scoring after 12 minutes and in doing so took his overall tally to nine for the competition, writing his own page of history in the annals of Asian Cup football as highest ever top scorer at a tournament. It didn't end there, 15 minutes later Hatem broke free and was un-checked by the Samurai Blue rear-guard curling a delightful shot into the corner away from the grasp of Gonda to secure an unlikely two goal margin for Al-Annabi at the interval.
Japan emerged from the break with a different proposition and forced the Qatari side to play deeper but lacked the guile and creativity to unlock the solid defence that Felix Sanchez has perfected in his time overseeing the gulf nation. After concerted pressure, Minamino weaved his way into the box and dinked past Al-Sheen for the first time in the competition to offer a degree of hope for Moriyasu's men.
As the clock ticked down, Japan pressed and in a rare foray into the Japan, the impressive Afif won a corner for his side. The ball struck a Japanese arm and after a VAR consultation, official Irmatov awarded a spot kick for Al-Annabi. Harsh on the men in blue as Afif tapped home to secure a famous win for the gulf nation who are set to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Maya Yoshida believes winning a fifth Asian Cup on Friday would be a major step forward for Japanese football and a young team still finding its feet on the international stage, the Japan captain said on Thursday.
The Southampton defender is the experienced heart of a youthful side that coach Hajime Moriyasu has put together since he took over in the wake of Japan's round of 16 exit from last year's World Cup.
The success of the campaign in Russia combined with a victory over Qatar at Zayed Sports City would give the Samurai Blue a major profile boost back home, the 30-year-old Yoshida told reporters.
Qatar coach Felix Sanchez said his team would not be distracted from the "most important match in the country's football history" by a protest over the eligibility of two of their best players at the Asian Cup.
The National newspaper reported on Thursday, the eve of the Asian Cup final between Qatar and Japan, that the United Arab Emirates had formally questioned the eligibility of 22-year-old Almoez Ali and Iraqi-born defender Bassam Al Rawi, 21.
Players to watch:
Japan - Yuya Osako
The Werder Bremen forward got off to a flyer with a brace in Japan's tournament opener against Turkmenistan. Muscular problems kept him sidelined for the next three matches but, following a substitute cameo against Vietnam in the quarter-finals, his double left Iran with a task they were ill-equipped to tackle.
Qatar – Almoez Ali
The only player to have more goals than Osako in the tournament is Qatar striker Almoez, who has plundered his way to double that haul. His wonderfully worked strike in the rout of UAE took him to eight from nine shots. In doing so he equalled the competition record of Iran great Ali Daei, who scored eight times in the 1996 edition.
Key Opta facts
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