Qatar focused only on Asian Cup semi-final against Iran, says manager Lopes

Hosts face Iranians on Wednesday, while Son Heung-min's South Korea take on Jordan on Tuesday for place in final

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Marquez Lopes, the manager of Asian Cup hosts Qatar, said he is not looking beyond his side’s semi-final clash with Iran on Wednesday.

The defending champions squeezed past Uzbekistan with a 3-2 penalty shoot-out win in the quarter-finals on Saturday.

Goalkeeper Meshaal Barsham was the hero at Al Bayt Stadium, the Al Sadd man saving three penalties after 120 minutes of action could not separate the two teams.

Hassan Al Haydos’ 27th minute goal had put the Qataris in front before Odiljon Hamrobekov levelled 13 minutes into second half.

But Qatar’s Spanish coach Lopes said his team won’t start dreaming of reclaiming their crown just yet as they face Iran in Doha for a place in Saturday’s final.

“Our goal is to always win, one match after the other and we’ve given everything we’ve got in this short period,” said Lopes. “We believe reaching the semi-final is an achievement, but the mission is not accomplished yet.

“We still have two matches and we want to give everything we can in these two matches, but we’ll take it one match at a time.”

Barsham’s three saves were the difference between the teams in the shoot-out with Uzbekistan, with the goalkeeper denying Rustamjon Ashurmatov, Zafarmurod Abdirakhmatov and Jaloliddin Masharipov to allow Pedro Correia to score the penalty that took Qatar through.

“Since the beginning our goal has been defending the title, but we’re not thinking about that," said Barsham. "It’s one match at a time. The atmosphere in the team is positive and this is what is making us united. We’re like a family.”

Lopes's opposite number Amir Ghalenoei believes his team can kick on to bigger things after their 2-1 comeback victory against Japan in the quarter-finals.

Team Melli came from a goal down at Education City Stadium to defeat the Samurai Blue thanks to two second-half goals from Mohammad Mohebi and Alireza Jahanbakhsh to reach the last four of the tournament for the second time in a row.

Iran lost to Japan 3-0 in the semi-finals of the previous edition in the UAE in 2019.

And Iran coach Ghalenoei said: "This match can be a turning point for Iranian football, not just for the senior national team, but also for the U23s, U19s and the whole football set-up.

“I think everybody should have the belief in Iranian people. We had a lot of great Iranian coaches in history who never got the chance to coach in Europe.

"If we want to have a higher standard of performance, we should have a long-term plan, infrastructure, stadiums and most importantly the support of the authorities in Iran.”

In the other semi-final, South Korea, who beat Australia 2-1 on Friday, and Jordan, who overcame Tajikistan 1-0, meet at Al Rayyan's Ahmad bin Ali Stadium on Tuesday.

South Korea's win over Australia came almost nine years to the day since they lost to the Socceroos in the 2015 final in Sydney.

But Tottenham Hotspur forward Son Heung-min, who scored the extra-time winner on Friday, insisted his focus was on keeping South Korea on track to lift the Asian Cup rather than getting revenge over the Aussies.

“I wouldn’t call it revenge,” Son said. “But, yes, 2015 was painful, it really did hurt. We had a very good chance that day and I was one of the players who was really disappointed with the result.

“Today wasn’t about the last game in 2015, it was about my goal in this tournament and our goal as a team. That was all that was in my head and I’m just happy that we’re one step closer to achieving our goal.”

Updated: February 04, 2024, 12:52 PM