Asian Cup showdown: Can Qatar win it again or will Jordan make history?

DOHA: After nearly a month of top-class action filled with many twists and turns, hosts Qatar and Jordan have earned the right to slug it out for Asian football supremacy when they meet in the 2023 Asian Cup title showdown at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail tomorrow night.

As the defending champions and playing on home soil, Qatar have set their sights on lifting the Cup for the second consecutive time while first-time finalists Jordan are bent on making history by claiming their maiden title.

Qatar, under the guidance of coach Marquez Lopez, have done well in this campaign, reaching the knockout stages as Group A champions after winning all their matches without conceding a goal by defeating Lebanon 3-0, Tajikistan 1-0 and China 1-0.

The Maroons then edged Palestine 2-1 in the last 16; overcame Uzbekistan 3-2 on penalties after both teams were tied 1-1 in the quarter-finals; and saw off three-time champions Iran 3-2 in the last four.

Akram Arif, the hitman with an eye-catching hairstyle, is Qatar's main weapon, with the 27-year-old Al Sadd player having scored five goals and provided three assists in six matches, thus putting him in the running to be the tournament's top scorer.

Qatar seem to be loaded with firepower upfront as skipper Hassan Al-Haydos and Almoez Ali, the top scorer in the previous edition, have also been among the goal-getters in this campaign with three and two goals respectively.

Iranian striker Aymen Hussein is the leading goal scorer in this tournament with six goals to his name.

Ahead of tomorrow's showdown, Qatar, who won their first title after defeating Japan 3-1 in the 2019 edition in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), are also the better side based on their world ranking of 58, compared to Jordan's 87.

But, as far as Jordan coach Hussein Ammouta is concerned the rankings mean nothing, citing the shock results produced by the likes of Iraq, Tajikistan and Malaysia (holding favourites South Korea to a 3-3 draw in a group match) as proof.

Jordan qualified for the knockout stages by finishing as the third-best team when they completed their Group E fixtures behind Bahrain and two-time champions South Korea by collecting four points after defeating Malaysia 4-0, drawing 2-2 with South Korea and losing 1-0 to Bahrain.

The Chivalrous continued to gain momentum and began to flex their muscles when they knocked out 2007 champions Iraq 3-2 in the last 16 and edged Tajikistan 1-0 in the last eight to reach the semi-finals for the first time, where they stunned South Korea 2-0.

If Qatar have Alif as their go-to guy for goals, Jordan can rely on the likes of Yazan Al-Naimat (three goals), Mousa Al-Tamari (three goals) and Mahmoud Al-Mardi (two goals) to deliver the goods.

Jordan, coming into the tournament as one of the unheralded teams, will also have less pressure compared to hosts Qatar, whose fans will be hoping for victory on home ground.

Jordan will also go into the game with extra confidence, having defeated Qatar 2-1 in an international friendly here on Jan 5.

Before that, Qatar were the more dominant team as they had never lost to Jordan in the last four encounters since 2012, notching two wins and two draws.


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