AFC Asian Cup hosts Qatar maintained their challenge for glory on home soil by safely winning through to the quarter-finals of the competition on Sunday evening. The Qataris overwhelmed Gulf Cup champions Kuwait 3-0 to make sure of second place in Group A, finishing a point behind section winners Uzbekistan, who maintained their unbeaten record with a 2-2 draw against China PR.
Qatar 3-0 Kuwait, Khalifa International Stadium, Doha
Deciding that attack was the best form of guarding against a surprise result, the tournament hosts made short work of the bottom-placed Kuwaitis. Bruno Metsu’s men exerted pressure on Nawaf Al Khaldi’s goal from the off, with defender Bilal Mohammed heading them into an early lead. Mohamed El Sayed doubled their advantage just minutes later, forcing home a loose ball after Sebastian Soria had been denied.
Kuwait’s attempts to get back in the game after the interval met with little success against a firm Qatar rearguard, with the home favourites making absolutely sure of their place in the knockout rounds when the returning Fabio Cesar stroked home a superb third, much to the delight of the local fans.
China PR 2-2 Uzbekistan, Al-Gharafa Stadium, Doha
The Chinese looked to be on their way to the last eight at their opponents’ expense when Yu Hai fired them into a sixth-minute lead. However, Odil Ahmedov brought Gao Hongbo’s side back down to earth on the half-hour mark when he equalised for the Uzbeks, who took the lead a minute after half-time through Alexander Geynrikh.
Though Hao Junmin pulled China PR level with over half an hour remaining, the Uzbeks held on to take top spot in the section ahead of group favourites Qatar, with the exiting Chinese finishing a disappointing third.
Bilal Mohammed, Qatar
Despite the presence of some quality strikers in the Qatari ranks, it was a defender who set them on the road to victory against Kuwait. Having come forward for an early corner, captain Bilal Mohammed chose to linger in the penalty area after the initial danger had been cleared. When the ball was sent back into the box from the left, he rose above the Kuwaiti defence to head home.
11 - The number of shots on goal Qatar had against Kuwait, six of them on target and three of them resulting in goals. In contrast, only one of the ten shots the Kuwaitis fired in on Qasem Burhan’s goal was between the posts.
What they said
“As far as we’re concerned the Asian Cup starts now. We stayed calm going into our previous game and we came out on top. Today’s win was a very important one because we’re the host nation and we had to make sure of our place in the quarter-finals. I’m delighted with this result and I’d like to thank all the players for their performance. Qualifying for the next round gives me a lot of satisfaction and we’ve got our sights set high now. We want to get past the last eight and go as far as we can in this tournament,” Bruno Metsu, Qatar coach.
“We’ve reached our initial objective, and that was to take first place in our group. We played a good game. We adopted a defensive approach and, though we let in a couple of goals, we managed to score a couple too. It’s a satisfying result for us and I’d like to thank the players for everything they’ve done on the pitch in these three group games,” Vadim Abramov, Uzbekistan coach