Qatar 6 DPR Korea 0
January 13 – Star duo Almoez Ali and Akram Afif led Qatar with four goals and as many assists to an emphatic 6-0 thrashing of North Korea and a place in the knockout stages.
In the lead-up to the tournament and during the first game much of the spotlight had been on the Al Annabi’s star player Afif, but it was Almoez Ali, Qatar’s number 19 and the focal point up front, who scored the first hat-trick of the tournament.
Felix Sanchez had promised that Qatar would retain their passing style, which resulted in a fine 2-0 win against Lebanon in their opening game, but still left question marks over Qatar’s attacking efficiency. Six goals dealt with that criticism with a demonstration close to a master class on good build-up attack, movement and mobility across the line and, of course, clinical finishing.
In the first 11 minutes Ali scored twice to set Qatar on the path to victory – and later rampage – and the tournament’s biggest scoreline so far. Twice Afif turned provider with good wing play and twice Ali finished with aplomb, turning in his second goal with a back heel. As the duo gelled, North Korea’s 4-5-1 formation was torn apart time and again.
Just before the break midfielder Boualem Khoukhi got on the scoresheet. The Qataris were intent on laying down a marker in Group E after Saudi Arabia had beaten North Korea 4-0 and went top of the group on Saturday with a win over Lebanon. Qatar and Ali didn’t let up. In the 55th minute the striker completed his hat-trick after build-up play from Afif on the left.
The game was over as a contest, but the goal fest went on: Ali collected a ball from Afif and finished from a tight angle for his fourth and Qatar’s fifth. The pain for the Koreans was unending and Abdelkarim Hassan, the AFC Player of the Year and Qatar’s left-back, netted a sixth goal with a brilliant solo run. The Chollima’s misery was further compounded when they finished their second game in a row with ten men after captain Jong Il-Gwan was shown a second yellow for a reckless lunge on Khoukhi and sent packing by Sri Lankan referee Dilan Perera.
The result leaves Qatar top of Group E and a draw against Saudi Arabia in their final group game will suffice for pole position. All eyes now turn to that match in Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City Stadium, the crescendo of the group phase of the competition.
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1594487672labto1594487672ofdlr1594487672owedi1594487672sni@o1594487672fni1594487672