Qatar won the Asian Cup for the first time after beating Japan 3-1 in the final in Abu Dhabi on Friday.
Felix Sanchez’s team sailed through the group stage and knockout rounds with a perfect record, and did not concede a goal until the second-half in the final to seal the country’s first major trophy.
The 2022 World Cup hosts were led by 22-year-old striker Almoez Ali, who broke a competition goals record in spectacular fashion as he netted the opener against Japan.
Coming into the showpiece match, breakout star Almoez had netted eight goals in the finals to tie Iran forward Ali Daei’s single-tournament record from the 1996 edition.
And Almoez took just 12 minutes at Zayed Sports City Stadium to take that honour outright with a stunning goal.
After controlling Akram Hassan Afif’s cross, the forward teed himself up for a sublime overhead kick that clipped the post on its way into the net for his ninth of the tournament.
Just 15 minutes later, another stunning strike followed when Abdelaziz Hatim found the net from 25 yards out but Japan cut the deficit in half in the 69th minute through Takumi Minamino.
Qatar were given the chance to seal the victory in the late stages, however, when the referee penalised Maya Yoshida for a handball in the box after consulting with VAR. Akram Hassan Afif stepped up to coolly convert from the spot and put an end to the contest.
The Qataris ended the campaign with seven straight victories, scoring 19 goals. Almoez emerged as the star man with an unprecedented goal tally, with his and Qatar’s most impressive run out coming against North Korea in the second group stage match.
Almoez netted four times in that game and set up Abdelkarim Hassan to round off the scoring at 6-0.
Almoez then scored both goals as Qatar beat Saudi Arabia 2-0 to secure the top spot, but it was Bassam Hisham Al-Rawi and Hatim who made the difference as they navigated tight knockout round ties against Iraq and South Korea.
The semi-final against tournament hosts United Arab Emirates was a more comfortable encounter, with Akram Afif pulling the strings in a 4-0 win. He set up three of his side’s goals, including another for Almoez to set the team and their star striker up for a historic final.
After their impressive victory over Japan, Felix Sanchez’s team will be hoping to maintain that momentum as they gear up for their participation in this year’s Copa America tournament in Brazil.