The 17th edition of the continental football showpiece, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup has been decided, After a 4-long week of fiest competitions that started on the 5th of January and ended on 1st February of current year, between 24 teams, UAE 2019 final match was contested between 4-time winner, Japan and the oil-rich nation, 2022 FIFA world cup host, Qatar, and the deserved champion is Qatar. The Maroon defeated Japan 3-1 to win the Asian Cup for the 1st time ever.
JAPAN: The Samurai Blues are the tournament most successful team with 4 titles to their name, prior to the final match: 1992; Japan hosted and won the championship defeating Saudi Arabia 1 nil in the final. 2000; After failing to defend their title in 1996, Japan returned to Lebanon to reclaim the title with a 4-1 win over the defending champion at the time, Saudi Arabia. 2004; Japan successfully defended her title with a 3-1 win over host, China. 2011; Japan last triumph came at Qatar with a narrow 1 nil win over Australia. The Samurai Blues had scored 11 goals in their 6 matches played before the final and conceded 3, a slight worry against an unstoppable force like Qatar. Japan's run to the final includes;
3-0 Iran (semifinal)
1-0 Vietnam (quarterfinal)
1-0 Saudi Arabia (round of 16)
2-1 Uzbekistan (group stage)
1-0 Oman (group stage)
3-2 Turkmenistan (group stage)
QATAR: The Maroons had never been in the Asian cup final before, despite hosting in 2 different occasions, firstly, in 1988, when they hosted and never made it out of the group stage, then, in 2011, in which they were knocked out 3-2 in the quarterfinals by the eventual winners, Japan. In a bid to have a reputable tournament in the 2022 world cup, Qatari football federation promoted former youth coach, Spaniard, Felix Sanchez Bas to handle the senior team, and boy what an impact Sanchez has had over the Qatari team. The Maroons had not conceded a single goal in the 6 matches played prior to the final, scoring 16 goals in those matches, they were not just an immovable object, they were also an unstoppable force. Qatar's run to the final includes;
4-0 UAE (semifinal)
1-0 South Korea (quarterfinal)
1-0 Iraq (round of 16)
2-0 Saudi Arabia (group stage)
6-0 North Korea (group stage)
2-0 Lybia (group stage)
The buildup to the game as seen host nation, UAE filed a protest against the legibility of 2 of Qatar's players. Tournament top scorer, Almoez Ali (8 goals before the final match) and son of former Iraqi international, Bassam Al-Rawi were both alleged to be ineligible, However, UAE's claims were thrown out and thus both players were given the all clear by AFC.
It was the Samurai Blue that took the early initiatives to the Qatari but they just could not break down the defensive wall put up by Sanchez lads, Against the run of play, it was Qatar that drew the 1st blood in the 12th minute through, you guessed it right! Almoez Ali for his 9th goal of the tournament, Almoez was afforded too much space and time to turn and control before taking a spectacular over-head kick past Japan's goalkeeper, Shuichi Gonda. Japan prowl and probe for an equalizer but was stunned instead in the 27th minute with another beauty of a curler from outside the box through Hatem Abdulaziz. Finally, Qatar's defence was bridged for the 1st time in the tournament when Japan's Takumi Minamino's 69th-minute chip over Qatar's goalkeeper made it 2-1. Unfortunately, Japan's rally for an equalizer was hampered in the 83rd minutes when Japan's Maya Yoshida was penalised for handling the ball in the box, Qatar's Akram Hassan Afif duly converted the resulting spot kick, 3-1 it ended. Astonishingly, all the 4 goals in the match came from the only 4 attempts on targets, the ESPN statistics throws more light on the contest. Japan's quest for a record-extending 5th title will have to wait for another 4 years. Qatar not just boast of a formidable attack, but also boast of a dependable defence and had shown the world they are battle ready for the next world cup. Tournament top scorer, Almoez Ali was also named the tournament MVP.
Thank you all for being part of my Asian Cup, UAE 2019 special.