Saudi Arabia’s Nasser Al Shamrani has been in excellent form for Saudi Arabia. Faisal Al Nasser / Reuters
Saudi Arabia’s Nasser Al Shamrani has been in excellent form for Saudi Arabia. Faisal Al Nasser / Reuters

Saudi Arabia have advantage over Qatar in Gulf Cup final



The 2014 Gulf Cup of Nations will end the way it started, with hosts Saudi Arabia taking on Qatar at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh.

The similarities between the two matches should end there, though.

In the tournament’s opener, the two had played out an uneventful 1-1 draw in Group A, before a disappointing crowd.

With what is at stake on Wednesday night, things should be a lot more amped up, both on the field and in the stands.

Both teams have improved significantly since that opener, which was a forgettable affair.

Saudi Arabia won the group comfortably, steadily improving with each match. But it was in the semi-final against the UAE that they finally stamped their authority on the competition.

The 3-2 win was comfortably the match of the tournament so far, and despite giving up what looked like a decisive two-goal lead, the Saudis came storming back to secure a late win.

Having disposed of the champions, and hoping for a big crowd to urge them on tonight, the home team will be confident that trophy is staying in Riyadh.

Above all, they can count on the excellent form of Al Hilal triumvirate Nasser Al Shamrani, Nawaf Al Abed and Salem Al Dawsari. All three scored against the UAE and have contributed five of Saudi Arabia’s eight goals in the competition. Qatar scraped into the semi-finals thanks to the opening draw and two dismal stalemates against Bahrain and Yemen.

Once there, however, they were a team transformed, overcoming an Omani team on high after defeating Kuwait 5-0.

With Ali Assadalla, who scored the two decisive goals in the 3-1 win over Oman, Qatar have an in-form star of their own.

Qatar manager Djemal Belmadi had been under intense criticism for the team’s form and some of his selections. His decision to bring Assadalla by off the bench early in the second half paid off in style.

Hassan Al Haydos will be a key for Qatar.

Chance for Saudi Arabia to reclaim top status in Arabian Gulf

Having beaten reigning champions UAE in the semi-finals, it is hard to look beyond Saudi Arabia as the likely winners on Wednesday night. in the Gulf Cup of Nations final against Qatar.

Juan Ramon Lopez Caro’s team looks to hold all the advantages. Form and momentum. Home advantage.

And history. There was a time not long ago when Saudi Arabia ruled Asian football, but the last decade has seen them regress.

On Wednesday night, they have a chance to shine again and, with AFC Asian Cup just six weeks away, prove that they are ready to return to former glory.

akhaled@thenational.ae

Follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SprtNationalUAE

ROUTE TO TITLE

Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2


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