Qatar's victory over Iran leaves 'one final step' to defend Asian Cup title

Spaniard 'Tintin' Marquez Lopez only took charge in December but has guided team to a second successive Asian Cup final following 3-2 win over Iran

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Qatar boss "Tintin" Marquez Lopez said there was little time to celebrate Wednesday's 3-2 victory over Iran as they look ahead to Saturday's Asian Cup 2023 showdown against Jordan.

The hosts won a seesaw battle with Almoez Ali, one of the standouts of the Qatar team that lifted the continental title in the UAE in 2019, settling the tie in the 82nd minute.

It means the defending champions are one match away from recapturing their crown at the Lusail Stadium, where they face underdogs Jordan.

“First off, I’m very happy for Qatar, the people of Qatar, the fans and the players,” said Lopez. “The match was very complex but we played a big match, the players didn’t spare any effort. Now we have one final step left to defend our title."

Qatar trailed as early as the fourth minute when Iran's Sardar Azmoun contorted to score an overhead kick past Qatar goalkeeper Meshaal Barsham.

Parity was restored on 17 minutes through Jassem Gaber's scuffed effort and Qatar took the lead for the first time on the night when playmaker Akram Afif drifted in from the left to drill home on the stroke of half time.

Iran, three times the champions of Asia, hit back when they were awarded a penalty after a VAR review. Amid the hosts' protests, Alireza Jahanbakhsh kept his cool to convert the spot-kick to set up a tense finish.

With the game in the balance, Ali proved the man of the moment. The striker bagged nine goals as Qatar lifted the trophy for the first time five years ago and he showed his killer instinct in front of goal, controlling an awkward ball after Abdulaziz Hatem’s wild shot fizzed into his path before applying a superb finish inside the far post.

There was more drama as the game entered injury time. Shojae Khalilzadeh had his yellow card for clattering Afif upgraded to a red after a VAR review and Qatar had their collective hearts in mouth when goalkeeper Barsham parried a rasping Jahanbakhsh drive onto the post on 13 minutes of time added on.

The Al Thumama Stadium erupted at the sound of the final whistle as Qatar held on to clinch their place in Saturday's showpiece.

Spaniard Lopez admitted his side rode their luck at times and said the pace of his front players proved a potent weapon.

“We tried to play with great speed in attack. We put four players in attack who we know are quick," he said.

“We tried to find spaces behind the Iranian defence. We were successful at times and luck was with us today. We will celebrate this victory today and tomorrow we will start preparing for the final match.”

All-Arab final set as Qatar beat Iran in Asian Cup

All-Arab final set as Qatar beat Iran in Asian Cup

Lopez only took charge of the team on December 24, replacing Carlos Queiroz who was sacked after only 11 games, and said was quick to acknowledge the work of his predecessors.

“Yes, I took over a short while ago but the one thing that really helped me is that I already know the players well. I have great respect for all my colleagues, I respect Carlos and Felix [Sanchez] who were here before me and did fantastic jobs.

“I have my own philosophy and way but I cannot say this is my success alone, I’m just someone who tried to implement my ways with the players to achieve the best result.”

Updated: February 08, 2024, 2:30 PM