From left: Qatar players celebrate, and Iran’s players celebrate during the quarter-final match against Japan.
Doha, Qatar: Iran and Qatar will square off in the semi-finals of the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023 today.
The last four tie it set to be a sizzling affair with Iran seeking to win the coveted title for the fourth time while Qatar will be defending their crown.
Both teams were in a class of their own in the group stage, advancing to the Round of 16 with perfect records of three wins each.
Qatar opened their Group A campaign with an impressive 3-0 win over Lebanon, taking their AFC Asian Cup winning run to eight matches – stretching back to their 2019 title triumph.
Next up were Tajikistan and despite the debutants giving their best, Akram Afif’s solitary effort was enough to secure the points for the hosts while a Hassan Al Haydos wonder strike gave Qatar the win against China PR in their final group match.
Qatar players celebrate after winning the shootout against Uzbekistan.
Iran kicked off their Group C campaign equally impressively, cruising to a 4-1 win over Palestine.
They had to work harder against Hong Kong, China but Mehdi Ghayedi’s 24th minute goal was enough for the points, while they completed dominated their tie against United Arab Emirates, with Mehdi Taremi striking twice for a 2-1 win.
Round of 16
Both teams had to produce their best in the Round of 16, with Qatar having to fight their way back after going behind to an Oday Dabbagh goal.
The champions, however, refused to panic with Al Haydos drawing them level just before the break with Afif striking the winner four minutes into the restart.
Iran had it even harder against a Syria side appearing in the AFC Asian Cup knockout stage for the first time.
Qatar goalkeeper Meshaal Barsham blocks a penalty during quarter-final against Uzbekistan.
A Taremi penalty in the 34th minute gave them the lead but Omar Khrbin drew Syria level with a spot-kick of his own in the 64th minute at the Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium.
Iran looked to be on the ropes when Taremi was sent off in second half stoppage time but the Central Asian side held their nerves to take the tie to penalties, winning the shoot-out 5-3.
The last eight stage proved another tough challenge, with Qatar needing penalties to see off a resilient Uzbekistan side.
Hassan Al Haydos’ deflected opener in the 27th minute was cancelled out by Odiljon Hamrobekov just before the hour mark, with Qatar edging to a 3-2 win in the penalty shoot-out.
Iran’s Saeid Ezzatolahi (left) celebrates.
Iran looked in danger of being overrun after Japan took a 1-0 lead, with Team Melli having never beaten the Samurai Blue at the AFC Asian Cup in four previous meetings.
Iran, however, were a different side after the break, with Mohammad Mohebi drawing them level in the 55th minute and Alireza Jahanbakhsh scoring from the penalty spot deep into added time to take the Central Asian side into the semi-finals.
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