|French coach Bruno Metsu said he was 'dreaming' of his improving Qatar team going on to win the Asian Cup [Reuters]
Qatar made sure of a place in their home Asian Cup quarter-finals as they beat Kuwait 3-0 in Group A while Uzbekistan finished top by drawing 2-2 with China.
Kuwait, who came into the tournament on a high after winning the Gulf Cup in December last year, make the short trip home with zero points, while China finish third with four.
Nearly 30,000 expectant fans turned out at the Khalifa Stadium hopeful that Qatar could match their tournament-best performance of a quarter-final place achieved 11 years ago.
Their nerves were eased after just 11 minutes when captain Bilal Mohammed rose highest to confidently flick a header past Yaqoub Al Taher in the Kuwait goal.
The hosts then doubled their advantage just five minutes later when Mohamed El Sayed curled a right foot shot past Al Taher, who was out of position having blocked the winger's initial header.
Confetti rained down at the stadium as Qatar bossed the remainder of the match against a deflated Kuwait side, who could still have qualified for the last eight if they won and other results went their way.
Substitute Fabio Cesar curled a late 30-yard free kick up and over the wall into the top corner of Al Taher's goal to add gloss to an easy victory that marked a full turnaround from their opening-day defeat to Uzbekistan.
Qatar's win was so convincing that many of the 28,339 spectators had left Khalifa Stadium before the final whistle.
They will get a chance to watch their team again in Friday's first quarter-final against the Group B winner, and Metsu didn't shy away from the idea that his side might go even further in the tournament.
"Why not?" Metsu said when asked if Qatar could win the Asian Cup.
"We will strive to win the trophy. It's our right to dream and you know I'm a big dreamer."
Qatar's bid had started in lacklustre fashion with a 2-0 loss to the Uzbeks, but since then the team has scored five goals without reply in the wins over China and Kuwait.
"The team was influenced by the importance of the opening match and it had an impact on the mentality of the players," Metsu said.
"The match against China was the starting point for the Qatar team. With today's performance and victory, they have reached the point they were aiming at."
China take early lead
At the Al Gharafa stadium, group leaders Uzbekistan fell behind after just six minutes in their bid to reach the last eight for a third consecutive Asian championships.
China midfielder Yu Hai stooped low to head home after a well-worked corner, although Uzbek keeper Ignatiy Nesterov will feel he should have done better.
The Uzbeks struck back with a neat goal from marauding centre-half Odil Akhmedov who slotted home an equaliser on the half-hour mark, before taking the lead straight after half time when striker Alexander Geynrikh shot home a brilliant dipping effort from the edge of the box.
But Hao Junmin matched that strike with a fine free kick to haul China level in the 56th minute and set up a nervy finale.
Uzbekistan finish the group on seven points ahead of Qatar on six.