Qatar welcomes Asian Cup football champions home

Gulf nation celebrates as the Maroons arrive in Doha to a heroic welcome after winning their first major football title.

    Qatar celebrated its national football team's upset victory at the Asian Cup with a royal welcome and a street parade by jubilant fans in the capital, Doha.

    On Friday, the Gulf nation defeated four-time winners Japan in the final of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup football tournament held at Abu Dhabi's Zayed Sports City Stadium in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

    Thousands of Qataris and residents gathered in the capital Doha on Saturday to welcome their footballers home after their stunning Asian Cup victory against Japan.

    Fans holding national flags cheered and threw flower petals as the team waved to the crowd from an open bus on Doha's landmark Corniche.

    Some in the crowd waited nearly four hours to catch a glimpse of the players. The celebrations continued, even after the bus carrying the footballers was gone.

    A highlight of the victory celebrations was the fireworks along the Corniche.

    A couple enjoys the fireworks on Doha's Corniche [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

    The Maroons landed around 7pm on Saturday at Doha's old airport, where Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani welcomed the winning team.

    The Qatari national football team at the victory parade [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

    Smiling broadly, the emir greeted each player warmly and placed a wreath of roses around his neck.

    Hundreds gathered at the airport for the arrival.

    Mais, Syrian based in Doha

    "We are here to support the national team of Qatar and to celebrate with them."

    "We will stay here until the team arrives."

    Marwa from Syria, based in Doha

    "Qatar is supporting Syria from the beginning and all Arab countries like Palestine, basically all Arab countries that has [sic] miseries."

    Residents gather on the Corniche to welcome the Qatar national team [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

    Narjes Jafarian, 25, Iran

    "We have cancelled so many plans just to be here, because it is truly once in a lifetime experience. Growing up in Qatar, we saw the Qatari football team never got to the finals, but this time the team won and it was a very convincing win."

    It was a sea of flags along the Corniche in Doha [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera] 

    Rawda Hamad, Qatari

    "I am here to celebrate the win and to see the trophy come back home. I just feel so blessed that we won, I didn't expect it. I am just so proud of our team.

    Expatriates here make a large part of our community and I hope they feel that this place is home just like we do."

    Young Qatari fans welcome their champion footballers home [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

    The Qatari team arrived in Doha via Oman, as direct flights between Qatar and Asian Cup host UAE remain banned due to a nearly two-year blockade imposed on Doha by its Gulf neighbours.

    'One step closer' to Qatar 2022

    Qatar's Spanish coach Felix Sanchez said the tournament win was a "huge result" for the team. 

    "Today we made history for our country, so we need to be very proud about our achievement," he said after the match. 

    "This is one step more towards being ready for 2022 and represent Qatar as a very competitive team at the World Cup."

    Al Jazeera's sports correspondent Lee Wellings, speaking from London, said the fact that Qatar has a competitive team will be in the host nation's favour at the World Cup.

    "To actually have a team to cheer for and get behind will give a positive feel to Qatar going into the 2022 tournament," he said. 

    Disappointment for Japan

    Japan's players look dejected after losing the Asian Cup final [Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters]

    Japan was chasing a record-extending fifth title. 

    "Our goal was to win the title, and so I'm disappointed and regretful we could not bring the Cup home to the Japanese people," Japan's coach Hajime Moriyasu said.

    Fans react to Qatar's win

    Salman Mohammed, 35, Qatari businessman

    "We love our team, they are our heroes and they have kept our heads high. 

    "If there was no blockade, I would have gone to watch the match, but the fact that we won is all that matters."

    Mohammed Reza, 28, Sri Lankan travel consultant

    "I am very happy and proud of the Qatari national team. It is a big thing for the country and a good sign before the World Cup comes here."

    Victory celebrations

    Celebrations are in full swing in Doha as Qatar are crowned Asian champions.

    This is the Gulf nation's first major football tournament win. 

    Qatar will host the FIFA World Cup in 2022.

    Qatar's emir pays tribute to football team

    Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani congratulated his country's football team for an "historic victory". 

    "A tribute to our heroes who made this tournament an Arab achievement and... realised the dreams of millions of Qatari football fans across the great Arab world," Sheikh Tamim wrote on his personal Twitter account. 

    Tournament awards

    Fair play: Japan

    Best goalkeeper: Saad Al Sheeb, Qatar

    Top goalscorer: Almoez Ali, Qatar

    Most valuable player: Almoez Ali, Qatar

    Qatar wins maiden title

    Qatar's national football team has defeated Japan 3-1 in the final to lift its first Asian Cup title.

    Third goal for Qatar

    Qatar's Akram Afif converts the penalty kick to put his side 3-1 ahead. 

    He receives a yellow card for taking his shirt off to celebrate. 

    Five minutes of extra time. 

    Japan scores 

    Japan's Takumi Minamino scores the first goal for his side in the 69th minute. 

    Second-half substitutions

    Japan's Yoshinori Muto comes in for Genki Haraguchi. 

    Qatar's Boualem Khoukhi taken off the field on a stretcher. He is replaced by Salem Al Hajri

    Half-time statistics

    Possession: Qatar 45 percent, Japan 55 percent

    Shots (on goal): Qatar 5 (2), Japan 3 (0)

    Fouls: Qatar: 5, Japan 6

    Corners: Qatar 1, Japan 3

    Qatar doubles the lead

    Abdelaziz Hatim scores the second goal for the Maroons in the 27th minute.

    Qatar's Abdelaziz Hatim celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates [Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters]

    First goal for Qatar

    Qatar takes the lead with 22-year-old Almoez Ali scoring in the 12th minute.

    This is Ali's ninth goal of the tournament, he has broken the record for the most goals scored in a single edition of the competition.

    Japan and Qatar fans outside the stadium before the match [Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters]
    Qatar fans before the kick-off [Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters]

    UAE protest against Qatar dismissed

    The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has dismissed the protest lodged by the United Arab Emirates Football Association over the eligibility of two of Qatar's players, the body said in a statement ahead of the final on Friday.

    The complaint about Qatar's Almoez Ali, a 22-year-old striker born in Sudan, and Bassam Al Rawi, a 21-year-old defender born in Iraq, was reportedly filed within two hours of Qatar's 4-0 victory over the UAE on Wednesday. 

    Who will win the final?

    Japan remain the clear favourites, ranked third in Asia and having put through a commendable performance in the 2018 World Cup.

    They are ranked 43 places above Qatar.

    But Qatar have scored 16 goals in this tournament without conceding any and have beaten teams ranked well above them.

    An Al Jazeera English poll carried out on Twitter says fans are equally divided on who will win. 

    Watching the final in Qatar

    Big screens have been set up around Qatar for fans to watch the final as they were unable to travel to the match in person because of a regional blockade by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt

    Special TV screenings will take place at around the capital Doha, including Souq Waqif and Katara Cultural Village as well as restaurants, malls and hotels.

    The match will be screened at Doha's Souq Waqif [Saba Aziz/Al Jazeera]

    One final push

    "There are no words to describe what playing in the final means to me," Qatar's captain Hassan al-Haydos told reporters on the eve of the game. "It is definitely very important to us as a team."

    Qatar's coach Felix Sanchez believes his players are ready for one final push that can land them the title.

    "The players are determined to get the victory we want by putting in one more huge effort against Japan so that we can make the Qatari people happy once again and make history," said Sanchez. 

    Qatar: 'Already winners'

    The air, land and sea blockade forced the team to take a circuitous route to reach Abu Dhabi from Qatar.

    Qatari fans were not allowed to travel to the UAE to support the team. At some games, Omanis were in the stands, cheering on the Qatari players. 

    During the semi-final against the UAE team shoes and sandals were thrown at the Qatari players from the stands. 

    For the fans back home, Qatar are already winners. Read the match preview by Saba Aziz here

    Additional reporting by Showkat Shafi in Doha

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies