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Asia Cup

Akram Afif’s penalty hat-trick secures AFC Asian Cup 2023 triumph for Qatar against Jordan

The AFC Asian Cup 2023 final thriller saw both Jordan and Qatar fight in a match that drew 86,492 spectators at Qatar’s Lusail Stadium, where Akram Afif’s hat-trick of penalties retained the host team’s Asian Cup title with a 3-1 win against surprise package Jordan.

REMINISCING WORLD CUP Tonight was a fitting final act to a month of football that began with 24 teams and witnessed a series of dramatic games. Team Qatar sought the Asian Cup as compensation to help dispel the agonizing memories of their World Cup Qatar 2022 participation, when they lost all three games, marking the worst record of any host in the competition’s history. This time they got it right, bringing back confidence not only for the team itself, but for the Qatari fans.

INCOMPLETE DREAM For Jordan, who arrived at finals for the first time since their first debut in the Asian Cup in 2004, was an accomplishment in itself. However, their dream, this time, was not crowned with victory, and neither of their fans, including myself, a Jordanian journalist, are extremely proud they made it to their first Asian Cup final and contesting the biggest match in their history regardless of the result.

GAME DYNAMICS Jordan, ranked 87th in FIFA’s World Rankings, 29 places below their Qatari opponents, fell behind through the first half when forward Afif held his nerve with a penalty for his sixth goal of the tournament. Qatar fully deserved their half-time lead but Jordan roared back to equalise through Yazan Al-Naimat’s smart finish.

The underdogs were level however for just six minutes, Afif slotted home once again from the penalty spot after the referee was advised by VAR to go to his pitch-side monitor. This time there was no Jordan comeback and Afif scored again from the spot for his hat-trick during injury time, again after a VAR intervention.

BACK-TO-BACK TITLE At the final whistle, the victorious Qatari substitutes raced from the bench and threw Afif in the air in celebration. Qatar came into the final attempting to become the fifth team to carry on a back-to-back Asian title, in hopes of erasing the bitter memories of their home World Cup.

Qatar parachuted in the Spaniard Tintin Marquez to replace former Real Madrid coach Carlos Queiroz just one month before the Asian Cup, in a major gamble that paid off substantially.

WEAK DEFENCE Hussein Ammouta’s Jordan were disappointing in the first half but they cranked up the pressure in the second, Montpellier’s Tamari, captain Ehsan Haddad, and Yazan Al-Arab all forcing Barshim into saves. The goal was coming and in the 67th minute it duly arrived, Naimat bringing the ball down with his right foot and then thrashing in with his left on the half-volley for his fourth of the tournament.

Qatar and Afif responded immediately, producing a successful third penalty shot once more, after beating Abulaila from the spot for a second time, this time in an even more convincing fashion. It was Afif, inevitably, who won the third penalty and he did the business once again for his eighth goal of the tournament. A deserved win for Qatar, and great performance from Jordan.

Credit: AIPS Media 

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