Qatar, led by Spanish Félix Sánchez, organizer of the 2022 World Cup, won the Asian Cup for the first time by beating Japan 3-1 on Friday in Abu Dhabi. The Qataris, who have dominated the competition with authority, went ahead in the first half through Ali Almoez (12) – the best scorer of the competition with 9 goals -, born in Sudan, and Abdulaziz Hatim (27).
The first goal was an acrobatic shot in the area and the second a shot to the square. Ali became the first player to score nine goals in an Asian Cup finals after being allowed hours before to play the final after a UAE protest, which he lost to Qatar in the semifinals, for alleged improper alignment.
Japan, four times champion of Asia and favorite for the title, recovered hope with a goal from Takumi Minamino (69) but Akram Afif made the penalty sentence ten minutes from the end, after the referee sanctioned a play after consulting the VAR (Arbitration Assistance Video). With 19 goals scored and only one conceded in seven games, Qatar succeeds Australia, winner in 2015, in the list of winners of the event.
This victory is not just sports for Qatar, it takes form of political revenge against its Persian Gulf neighbors – Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt – that since June 2017 broke diplomatic and economic relations by accusing the country of supporting extremist movements and get closer to Riyadh's regional rival, Iran.
The players of the selection directed by the Spanish Félix Sánchez have overcome a hostile environment and extra-sports tension. In the semifinals, after winning 4-0 to host Emirates, they received a shower of shoes and projectiles from the stands when celebrating the triumph.
In addition they have had to play all the matches almost without fans, since the citizens of Qatar are forbidden to travel to the Emirates. However in the final reigned a serene atmosphere. The triumph of Qatar also means collecting the fruits of years of investment in a project that aims to shine in the 2022 World Cup, in which it will be the new host.
This triumph finds its origin in the famous Aspire Academy of Doha, created in 2004 to find Qatari talents in the national championship. Qatar was also looking for Felix Sanchez, of the Barca academy, in 2006, to take control of the reins of the national team, which has paid off for the small emirate of the Gulf, which will have to be taken seriously in its World Cup -2022.
Japan, on the other hand, had never lost an Asian Cup final, winning the previous one they had played in 2011.