Qatar Aims for World Cup Success to Boost Reputation

Qatar Aims for World Cup Success to Boost Reputation

As the 2023 Asian Cup concluded, Akram Afif played a pivotal role for Qatar anew. Following his initial score in the opening contest versus Lebanon, Afif netted the decisive goal in the ultimate match against Jordan in the 95th minute, culminating in an exhilarating 3-1 triumph. The majority of the 86,000 spectators at Lusail Stadium erupted into unrestrained jubilations subsequent to this final goal.

Afif was the standout player of the tournament, converting all three of Qatar’s final goals from the penalty spot, leading him to be the top scorer with eight goals. Despite the Jordanian team’s growing frustration, reflected in their sarcastic responses to the penalty calls, the decisions made by the Chinese referee, Ma Ning, were not controversial. For the Jordanian squad, the timing of these penalties, particularly the second one, was more contentious than the calls themselves.

Afif Stars as Qatar Clinches Back-to-Back Continental Titles

Afif ignited Qatar’s victory with an early goal, following a penalty box scuffle. Jordan, still reeling from their unexpected wins over Iraq and South Korea, initially faltered. Their resurgence, however, was short-lived, peaking just before halftime.

The second half saw a revitalized Jordan. Yazan al-Naimat’s equalizer, a masterful combination of control, turn, and shot, was a highlight, signaling a potential shift in the game’s momentum. However, Qatar quickly regained the lead with another penalty following a video review.

Despite the setback, Jordan remained determined, but their hopes were dashed when Afif, once again fouled in the penalty area, secured the victory for Qatar. This win marked Qatar’s second consecutive title as the champions of Asia. While the 2019 victory was marked by dominance, this triumph was less about flair and more about resilience. Almoez Ali and captain Hassan al-Haydos showed glimpses of their past brilliance, but it was Afif’s standout performance, capped off with a celebratory card trick dedicated to his wife, that truly defined Qatar’s hard-fought success.

Qatar’s Mixed Fortunes in Asian Football

With remarkable perseverance, Qatar triumphed over Uzbekistan in the quarterfinals through penalty shootouts and marginally vanquished Iran in the semi-finals. Notwithstanding these victories, Qatar’s showing at the 2022 World Cup—where they were defeated in all three contests—presents a striking disparity compared to their dual championships within a quintet of years. This lackluster showing might have been shaped by the protracted training encampment preceding the World Cup, which precluded the players from engaging in any competitive matches.

Qatar’s triumph in the Asian Cup is viewed differently outside Asia, often not seen as indicative of the strength of Asian football. While winning a continental championship in Europe or Africa might significantly bolster a team’s reputation, the Asian Cup is perceived differently. To truly enhance their standing, Qatar must not only qualify for the World Cup but also perform impressively in the 2026 tournament.

Jordan and Qatar’s Ambitious Leap into European Football

Players from Jordan, such as Naimat and Mousa al-Taamari, have come to the fore this event, particularly in the knockout rounds. Although he was benched in the final, Al-Taamari’s brilliance demonstrates the possibility of seeing more Arab players in the best European divisions. He is the only player from either squad now playing in Europe. An allusion to the problems encountered by Jürgen Klinsmann’s South Korea is that this tournament has shown the superiority of indigenous teams with strong coaching over those with weak management and superstar players.

The 27-year-old Afif is primed to endeavor his fortune anew in Europe following his initial attempt’s non-success. Hussein Ammouta, Jordan’s mentor, triumphant on both African and Asian platforms, has exhorted his proteges to mirror al-Taamari. The Asian Cup substantiated that a dearth of prowess is non-existent, despite the scant number of Arab athletes from West Asian nations achieving passage to Europe. For Qatar and Jordan, effectuating a significant impact by 2026 has ascended as the paramount objective.

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About the Author

Born in Liverpool in 1984, Ian Fletcher, a distinguished betting expert, attained a Master’s in Sports Analytics from the University of Manchester in 2010. Between 2011 and 2019, he was engaged with various English football clubs, focusing on tactical analysis and player performance metrics. Fletcher has contributed to 12 academic papers, emphasizing the role of game tempo and set-piece efficiency. In 2020, he transitioned into the realm of journalism. Presently, Fletcher authors in-depth analytical pieces on football, exploring game dynamics and team strategies, and his expertise is sought after by numerous sports platforms.

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