Qatar players celebrate with the trophy on Saturday night.
Doha, Qatar: Qatar’s historic AFC Asian Cup triumph on Saturday night followed the champions’ parade as fans celebrated Al Annabi’s back-to-back titles across the country, with congratulatory messages pouring in from leaders of different nations yesterday.
Qatar overpowered Jordan 3-1 in the final at the packed Lusail Stadium becoming only the fifth side in history to retain their crown in the continental showpiece.
The champions with their 14th consecutive victory across two editions also broke Iran’s record of 13 straight wins in the Asian Cup.
CEO of the Local Organizing Committee Jassim Abdulaziz Al Jassim addresses the media at the Main Media Centre of the AFC Asian Cup 2023 that ended on Saturday night. Al Jassim yesterday hailed the tournament as best edition of the continental showpiece, crediting teamwork for the huge success as Qatar hosted another blockbuster after the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. LOC Operations Executive Director, Rashid Al Khater, and LOC Marketing and Communication Executive Director, Hassan Rabea Al Kuwari were also present.
Star forward Akram Afif, who fired a hat-trick of penalties in the title clash, earned the top scorer and player of the tournament accolades after finishing with eight goals. He also became the first player to score goals in two Asian Cup finals having also scored against Japan in 2019.
“We worked very hard throughout the event to win this title. I want to congratulate the entire country and thank fans for their overwhelming support,” said Afif.
Meshaal Barsham picked the best goalkeeper award as Qatar players swept individual trophies after a dream run in title defence, with coach Marquez Lopez hailing players’ fighting spirit and efforts.
“I’m extremely happy and I congratulate the Qatari people and the players. We are so happy that we won the match. The tension was high,” said Lopez after claimed victory in front of 85,500 spectators.
Qatar midfielder Abdulaziz Hatem said collective efforts made the tough task possible for Al Annabi.
“It’s a great achievement to win back-to-back titles in this elite tournament. We are proud to win on home soil. Every member of the squad including coaching and technical staff played part in this achievement,” he said.
Currently ranked 58th, Qatar are set to make a big jump in the latest FIFA rankings on Thursday after the title win that also included a semi-final victory over higher-ranked Iran.
Qatar’s next big challenge will be qualifying for the FIFA World Cup for the first time having made their debut in the global showpiece as hosts in 2022.
They got off to a fiery start in their Preliminary Joint Qualification – Round 2 for the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027 defeating Afghanistan 8-1 and India 3-0 in their opening group matches, before the surprise departure of coach Carlos Queiroz in December.
It remains to be seen who will coach the side as Lopez was appointed until the Asian Cup.
“What will happen is I’ll go back to Al Wakrah. I haven’t talked about the future. I’m not sure what will happen, but we will enjoy the moment for now,” Lopez said when asked about his future with the national team.
Qatar will resume their qualifying battle with a match against Kuwait on March 21. They will play them again in the return leg on March 26 while their second match against Afghanistan is set for June 6, before the game against India five days later.
A total of 36 teams divided into nine groups are taking part in the second round. All nine group winners and the respective runners-up will advance to the third round of World Cup qualifying, and at the same time seal their places at the 2027 Asian Cup.
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