Qatar stun Japan 3-1 to win their maiden AFC Asian Cup title. Ali Almoez, Abdelaziz Hatim and Akram Hassan Afif scored a goal each for the champion side.
⏱ FULL-TIME | 🇯🇵 Japan 1-3 Qatar 🇶🇦
— #AsianCup2019 (@afcasiancup) February 1, 2019
While Japan entered the Asian Cup hotly tipped to win a fifth title, the Qataris hadn’t even reached the semifinals before. But confounding the disparity in the FIFA rankings — with Qatar at 93 and Japan at 50 — the Gulf nation won the final 3-1 to claim its first major soccer title.
The strong attacking display was a reflection of Qatar’s remarkable run over the last month in the United Arab Emirates, scoring 19 goals and conceding only once in winning all seven games.
“Qatar today is a top Asian team,” goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb said. “We wrote history.”
After upsetting the final favorite, players wrapped themselves in Qatari flags in a display of patriotic furor that will have resonated far beyond the stadium in Abu Dhabi.
Since joining other Arab countries in cutting diplomatic, economic and travel ties with Doha in 2017, the UAE warned residents that expressing sympathy for Qatar could lead to fines and imprisonment. The UAE is among a quartet of nations accusing its regional foe of supporting extremists, which Qatar denies, and even prevented the team from traveling direct to Abu Dhabi for the tournament.
There was even an attempt by the UAE to get Qatar disqualified after losing their semifinal. Tournament organizers confirmed only hours before the final they dismissed a challenge by the UAE against the eligibility of two Qatar players who were born outside Qatar.
One of them, Almoez Ali, scored the opening goal against Japan in the 12th minute with an audacious overhead kick. That gave him an all-time tournament record nine goals.
Abdulaziz Hatem doubled Qatar’s lead with a curling strike in the 27th.
While Qatar conceded its first goal of the tournament in its seventh game when Takumi Minamino netted in the 69th, Akram Afif restored the two-goal cushion in the 83rd from the penalty spot.
“It’s a huge disappointment,” Japan captain Maya Yoshida said. “But we have to learn from this defeat.”
Victory will give Qatar renewed hope of being able to compete against the globe’s best teams when it qualifies for the first time for the World Cup — as hosts — in 2022.