Sports, Football

Qatar, Jordan confront for Asian Cup supremacy today

Published : 09 Feb 2024 08:50 PM

An Asian Cup full of late goals and surprises reaches a climax on Saturday when hosts and holders Qatar face a Jordan side looking to make yet more history.

The 88,000-capacity Lusail Stadium, where Lionel Messi's Argentina beat France in the World Cup final 14 months ago, will stage the final act of four weeks of Asian football.

Few would have predicted it would come down to a decider between a Qatar side who swapped coaches one month before the Asian Cup and a Jordan team ranked 87 in the world. 

Pre-tournament favourites Japan were dumped out in the quarter-finals by Iran, who then went down in a 3-2 semi-final thriller to Qatar on Wednesday.

In a competition raining late goals, it should have been little surprise that Qatar's winner came eight minutes from time when Almoez Ali turned in to break Iranian hearts.

"I'm very happy for Qatar, the people of Qatar, the fans and the players," said coach Tintin Marquez, the Spaniard who was spirited in to replace Carlos Queiroz less than four weeks before the competition.

"The match was very complex but we played a big game, the players didn't spare any effort. Now we have one final step left to defend our title."

They have been keen to avoid the topic, but winning the Asian Cup for a second time and retaining their crown will exorcise the demons of Qatar's World Cup flop.

Their three defeats when they staged the World Cup in 2022 was the worst record of any host in the competition's history.

In 27-year-old striker Akram Afif, Qatar have one of the players of the tournament and he scored a glorious goal against Iran to take his tally to five in six games.

Qatar would be the fifth team to win back-to-back Asian Cups.