Lopez congratulates players as Qatar retain Asian Cup title but unsure on future

Spaniard says he will return to club duties after guiding Qatar to back-to-back continental crowns

Asian Cup champions Qatar parade trophy to delight fans

Asian Cup champions Qatar parade trophy to delight fans
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Qatar manager "Tintin" Marquez Lopez praised his players’ mettle after they defeated Jordan in the Asian Cup final on Saturday night to become back-to-back winners.

The hosts prevailed 3-1 at Lusail Stadium against the first-time finalists, with star player Akram Afif netting a hat-trick of penalties. Yazan Al Naimat had equalised for Jordan just after the hour.

The victory lifts Qatar, who won their first continental crown at the 2019 tournament in the UAE, alongside South Korea with two titles. Only Japan, Saudi Arabia and Iran have more. Japan were the last side to retain the trophy, in 2004.

“I’m extremely happy and I congratulate the Qatari people and the players,” said Lopez, who was appointed weeks before the tournament. “We are so happy that we won the match. The tension was high.

"Maybe it was not beautiful football, but everyone remembers the winner and I'm proud of my players and their achievements.”

Qatar became only the fifth team to successfully defend the Asian Cup, a feat made all the more impressive given the uncertainty that surrounded the holders coming into the tournament.

Carlos Queiroz, installed to turn around a team that disappointed hugely at the 2022 World Cup on home soil, departed in December, with Lopez then parachuted in from Qatar Stars League club Al Wakrah.

As the Spaniard attempted to quickly implement his tactics and philosophy, the Asian champions lost in a friendly, ironically to Jordan, on the eve of the tournament.

“I have been working in Qatar and I know the players well,” a visibly drained Lopez said on Saturday night. “It was easy to work with them and they effectively implemented our ideas on the pitch.

"In some matches we didn't deliver our best, but in others we were better and exceeded expectations."

On remaining with the national team, Lopez said: “What will happen is I'll go back to Al Wakrah. I haven't talked about the future.

“I'm not sure what will happen, but we will enjoy the moment for now.”

Lopez’s opposite number, Hussein Ammouta, was left to rue his side’s poor start on Saturday night, saying the pressure of expectation initially got to his players.

Jordan had never previously been beyond the Asian Cup quarter-finals, but produced one of the great tournament displays to defeat South Korea in the semi-final.

However, they clearly struggled throughout the first half of the showpiece.

"There is only great pride in my players as they had a great tournament,” Ammouta said. “They played very well in getting us into the final.

"I talked before the game about the mental aspect. It's a final but I told them to enjoy it."

Asian Cup champions Qatar parade trophy to delight fans

Asian Cup champions Qatar parade trophy to delight fans

The Moroccan added: "There was a big focus on the players and I was scared that the environment would have an impact on them.

"People can have good intentions, but it can have an impact on the players. Their interactions with their families and on social media put pressure on them. It was clear.

"I am the coach, but I can't take their iPads and phones."

On his side’s still-memorable campaign, Ammouta said: "We certainly wanted much more, but it wasn't to be. But there is so much that the players can take from here.

“They have opened new horizons and it is crucial that the players build on this."

Updated: February 15, 2024, 9:11 AM