Qatar have won their first major football title by beating four-time champion Japan 3-1 in the Asian Cup final on Friday. It was an improbable run to glory for the Gulf nation as it prepares to host the 2022 World Cup.
The victory in Abu Dhabi against one of the favourites came only hours after tournament organisers announced they had dismissed a challenge by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), whose football association had challenged the eligibility of two Qatar players hours after Qatar beat them 4-0 in the semi-final.
One of them, Almoez Ali, scored the opening goal against Japan in the 12th minute of the game with an audacious overhead kick that secured an all-time tournament record of nine goals for him. Abdulaziz Hatem doubled Qatar’s lead, scoring in minute 27.
Qatar conceded its first and only goal of the tournament in the second half of the game when Japan’s Takumi Minamino scored in the second half.
A successful penalty shot from Qatar’s Akram Afif restored the team’s two-goal cushion 83 minutes into the game.
Qatar was clearly the underdog, ranked 93rd by FIFA. Japan was 50th, and third in Asia.
Qatar won every one of its seven games in the UAE, scoring 19 goals in all and conceding one.