In a purely Arab final… Qatar overcomes Iran to defend its title against Jordan

February 14, 2024
In a purely Arab final... Qatar overcomes Iran to defend its title against Jordan

The Qatari team sets a date with its Jordanian counterpart in an all-Arab final after it beat Iran 3-2 on Wednesday, thus setting it on the mission of defending the Asian Football Cup title hosted by the Gulf emirate. The final will be held at Lusail Stadium on Saturday, noting that the Nashama team achieved the surprise by defeating South Korea 2-0 on Tuesday.

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Qatar, the defending champion, will face the Jordanian team in an all-Arab final after defeating Iran 3-2 on Wednesday in an exciting match at Al Thumama Stadium, in the semi-finals of the tournament. Asian Football Cup Hosted by the Gulf emirate.

Jassim Jaber (17), Ali Afif (43), and Al-Moez Ali (82) scored Qatar's goals, and Sardar Azmoun (4) and Ali Reza Jahanbakhsh (51, penalty kick) scored Iran's goals.

The final match will be held on the floor of Lusail Stadium next Saturday, noting that the Nashama team achieved the surprise by defeating South Korea 2-0 on Tuesday.

This is the third time that the final match will be purely Arab, after the 1996 edition between Saudi Arabia and the UAE and the 2007 edition between Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

The meeting was the third between the two teams in the continental finals, and Iran won the previous two matches 2-0 in the 1988 edition, and 1-0 in the Australian edition in 2015 in the group stage.

Consequently, Qatar strengthened its hopes of retaining the title, along the lines of South Korea (1956, 1960), Iran (1968, 1972, 1976), Saudi Arabia (1984, 1988) and Japan (2000, 2004).

“One step closer to retaining the title”

The surprise among Qatar's ranks was that Spanish coach “Tentin” Marques Lopes did not include veteran national team captain Hassan Al-Haydos, who has the largest number of international matches for his country.

On the other hand, its top scorer, Portuguese Proto striker Mehdi Taremi, returned to the Iranian ranks after missing the confrontation against Japan in the quarter-finals.

Qatar coach Lopes said: “I am very happy for the Qatari people and the fans who came to the stadium.” He added: “We played a complicated match, but we played a great match. The players spared no effort. We have one step left to retain the title.”

Lopes concluded: “I took over my job a short time ago, but what helped me was that I knew the players well after I spent a period in the State of Qatar (supervising Al-Wakrah’s training). The road was difficult, but credit goes to the players who implemented the instructions to the letter.”

As for the team’s star, Akram Afif, he said: “We congratulate our fans and everyone who supported us. The victory was not easy. We feel proud of what was achieved and we hope that what comes next will be better.”

Iran opened the scoring early, after a long throw-in inside the area that reached Saeed Azza Elahi, who hit it with his head, and the Qatari defense did not disperse it well, so it reached Sardar Azmoun, who shot it with a wonderful background shot into the Qatari net (4).

Read alsoAsian Cup: End of the first round of the group stage and mixed results for the Arab teams

In the first reaction, Akram Afif shot a curling ball that was easily controlled by Iranian goalkeeper Ali Reza Beranvand. The Iranian team almost increased its lead with a quick counterattack when Azmoun passed a cross towards Mehdi Taremi, but the latter did not catch it while the goal was open in front of him (12).

The Iranians strongly objected to a violation committed by Mahdi Ali from behind against Taremi, who was making his way between Qatari defenders on the outskirts of the area, but the referee did not care about them.

The Qatari team succeeded in achieving the equalizer after a long forehand ball reached Akram Afif, who passed it perfectly to Jassim Jaber on the outskirts of the area. He shot it powerfully and hit the foot of Saeed Azza El-Lahi, deceiving his goalkeeper and falling over him into the net (17).

Afif took advantage of a wrong back ball and walked it a long distance before shooting it. The goalkeeper blocked it without catching it and it returned to Afif, but he dunked it over the crossbar (32).

Qatar succeeded in taking the lead two minutes before the end of the first half when the ball reached Afif on the outskirts of the area, and he penetrated into the area and fired a missile that hit Iran's net. Afif raised his score to five goals in second place, one goal behind the Iraqi top scorers, Ayman Hussein.

The Iranian team started the second half pressing, and the referee awarded them a penalty kick following a handball from Ahmed Fathi, which Ali Reza Jahanbakhsh successfully blocked (51).

The Qatar national team almost took the lead again moments later after a wonderful joint play between three players that reached Youssef Abdel Razzaq, who shot it with his left hand, but the Iranian goalkeeper brilliantly blocked it (52).

“I am responsible for this loss. It is the worst day of my life.”

Qatar goalkeeper Mishal Barshim blocked defender Shoja Khalilzada’s header with his fingertips (72). Qatar defender Lucas Mendes intervened at the last minute to deflect the ball that Taremi shot from close range (74).

In the 82nd minute, the ball suddenly reached Almoez Ali, so he controlled it and shot it to the right of the Iranian goalkeeper, giving Qatar the lead.

Things got worse for Iran when Khalbalzadeh intercepted Afif on his way to the goal, so the referee showed him the yellow card before canceling it and awarding the red card after reviewing the video assistant referee (VIR) in the fourth minute of stoppage time.

Read alsoAsian Cup: Saudi Arabia bids farewell to the tournament and Iran sets a date with Japan in the quarter-finals

The Iranian team threw all its weight in the last minutes and hit the Qatari post with a creeping ball shot by Jahanbakhsh before Barshim blocked a deceptive ball from one of its defenders, so the referee blew his final whistle.

Iran's coach, Amir Qala Nooyi, commented on his team's exit by saying, “I apologize to the Iranian people because we wanted to make them happy tonight, but we were not able to do that.” He continued: “In the second half, we presented our best performance in the tournament and wasted many opportunities, but this is football. I thank the players for the great efforts they made.”

Nooyi explained: “We witnessed great teams that left the tournament, such as South Korea, Japan, Australia and Saudi Arabia. I am responsible for this loss. It is the worst day of my life.”

France 24/AFP

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