Qatar welcomes Asian Cup football champions home

Gulf nation celebrates as the Maroons arrive in Doha to a heroic welcome after winning their first major football title.

    Qatar celebrated its national football team’s upset victory at the Asian Cup with a royal welcome and a street parade by jubilant fans in the capital, Doha.

    On Friday, the Gulf nation defeated four-time winners Japan in the final of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup football tournament held at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City Stadium in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

    Thousands of Qataris and residents gathered in the capital Doha on Saturday to welcome their footballers home after their stunning Asian Cup victory against Japan.

    Fans holding national flags cheered and threw flower petals as the team waved to the crowd from an open bus on Doha’s landmark Corniche.

    Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani congratulated his country’s football team for an “historic victory”. 

    “A tribute to our heroes who made this tournament an Arab achievement and… realised the dreams of millions of Qatari football fans across the great Arab world,” Sheikh Tamim wrote on his personal Twitter account. 

    Tournament awards

    Fair play: Japan

    Best goalkeeper: Saad Al Sheeb, Qatar

    Top goalscorer: Almoez Ali, Qatar

    Most valuable player: Almoez Ali, Qatar

    Qatar wins maiden title

    Qatar’s national football team has defeated Japan 3-1 in the final to lift its first Asian Cup title.

    Third goal for Qatar

    Qatar’s Akram Afif converts the penalty kick to put his side 3-1 ahead. 

    He receives a yellow card for taking his shirt off to celebrate. 

    Five minutes of extra time. 

    Japan scores 

    Japan’s Takumi Minamino scores the first goal for his side in the 69th minute. 

    Second-half substitutions

    Japan’s Yoshinori Muto comes in for Genki Haraguchi. 

    Qatar’s Boualem Khoukhi taken off the field on a stretcher. He is replaced by Salem Al Hajri

    Half-time statistics

    Possession: Qatar 45 percent, Japan 55 percent

    Shots (on goal): Qatar 5 (2), Japan 3 (0)

    Fouls: Qatar: 5, Japan 6

    Corners: Qatar 1, Japan 3

    Qatar doubles the lead

    Abdelaziz Hatim scores the second goal for the Maroons in the 27th minute.

    First goal for Qatar

    Qatar takes the lead with 22-year-old Almoez Ali scoring in the 12th minute.

    This is Ali’s ninth goal of the tournament, he has broken the record for the most goals scored in a single edition of the competition.

    UAE protest against Qatar dismissed

    The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has dismissed the protest lodged by the United Arab Emirates Football Association over the eligibility of two of Qatar’s players, the body said in a statement ahead of the final on Friday.

    The complaint about Qatar’s Almoez Ali, a 22-year-old striker born in Sudan, and Bassam Al Rawi, a 21-year-old defender born in Iraq, was reportedly filed within two hours of Qatar’s 4-0 victory over the UAE on Wednesday. 

    Who will win the final?

    Japan remain the clear favourites, ranked third in Asia and having put through a commendable performance in the 2018 World Cup.

    They are ranked 43 places above Qatar.

    An Al Jazeera English poll carried out on Twitter says fans are equally divided on who will win. 

    Watching the final in Qatar

    Big screens have been set up around Qatar for fans to watch the final as they were unable to travel to the match in person because of a regional blockade by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt

    Special TV screenings will take place at around the capital Doha, including Souq Waqif and Katara Cultural Village as well as restaurants, malls and hotels.

    One final push

    “There are no words to describe what playing in the final means to me,” Qatar’s captain Hassan al-Haydos told reporters on the eve of the game. “It is definitely very important to us as a team.”

    Qatar’s coach Felix Sanchez believes his players are ready for one final push that can land them the title.

    “The players are determined to get the victory we want by putting in one more huge effort against Japan so that we can make the Qatari people happy once again and make history,” said Sanchez. 

    Qatar: ‘Already winners’

    The air, land and sea blockade forced the team to take a circuitous route to reach Abu Dhabi from Qatar.

    Qatari fans were not allowed to travel to the UAE to support the team. At some games, Omanis were in the stands, cheering on the Qatari players. 

    During the semi-final against the UAE team shoes and sandals were thrown at the Qatari players from the stands. 

    For the fans back home, Qatar are already winners. Read the match preview by Saba Aziz here. 

    Additional reporting by Showkat Shafi in Doha

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