Saturday’s final of the football championship of the continent’s largest continent in the form of the Asian Cup had a purely Arabic cast. Qatar’s defending champions succeeded at home, winning the trophy after a 3-1 victory over Jordan. Akram Afif, the championship’s top scorer, scored three times from the penalty spot.
How was the journey of the two finalists through the tournament? Qatar was dominant in the group stage, beating Lebanon, Tajikistan and China without conceding a goal. It then went on to beat Palestine 2-1 in the eighth round.
Spanish coach Tintín Márquez’s charges experienced more drama in the quarter-finals. The match against Uzbekistan was decided by a penalty shootout, decided by a penalty from Portugal’s Pedro Miguel. In the semi-finals, the hosts of the last World Cup defeated Iran 3:2.
Jordan, whose best result so far at the Asian Cup was a place in the quarter-finals, advanced from third place in the group. After beating Malaysia 4:0, it drew 2:2 with South Korea and lost 0:1 to Bahrain.
In the play-offs, the team of Moroccan coach Hussein Ammouta won every time in normal time. By knocking out the Iraqis, the Tajiks and the favoured South Koreans, the Jordanians secured their first ever medal haul at a continental championship.
Qatar defended their Asian Cup triumph at home
The final match was played at 4pm CET on Saturday at the Lusail stadium in front of nearly 90,000 spectators. The home fans in the packed stands did not wait long for the opening goal.
In the 22nd minute, Chinese referee Ma Ning awarded a penalty in the Jordanian penalty area, which was confirmed by VAR. The penalty kick was converted by Akram Afif, one of the Qatari team’s driving forces and a member of the Al-Sadd club. Although the Jordanians created scoring opportunities, they were still trailing after the first half.
However, they did manage to equalise in the 67th minute. Yazan Al-Naimat took advantage of his team’s dominance after the break. But the footballers from the two-million-emirate soon took the lead back.
The referee, again with the help of video, determined that Qatar would kick another penalty. In the 73rd minute, Afif again took the penalty and again made no mistake. And in the set-up, he completed his hat-trick in the same way. The 27-year-old striker became the tournament’s top scorer with eight goals.
But above all, he and his teammates celebrated a team triumph after the 3-1 victory over Jordan. Although Japan and South Korea were considered the biggest favourites before the Asian Cup, Qatar managed to defend their four-year-old triumph in the United Arab Emirates.
The next edition of the event, the 19th, will take place in Saudi Arabia in 2027. This will be the first time the Asian Football Championship has been held there.
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