February 9 – Qatar coach Marquez Lopez wants his team to cast Arab affinity to one side for 90 minutes as the defending champions and tournament hosts look to see off the Asian Cup’s surprise package Jordan on Saturday to retain the continental title.
The final at Lusail Stadium, only the second time the World Cup final stadium will have been used during the four-week event, will be the first to pit Arab nations against one another since 2007, when Iraq recorded a historic 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia in Jakarta.
Jordan will be making their debut appearance in the decider while Qatar look to become only the fifth nation – after South Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Japan – to retain the title, and the first in the 20 years since Japan defeated China in Beijing.
“This is a match between two brotherly countries, but in the end there should be competition between brothers,” said Lopez, who has taken the hosts to the final despite being appointed in December as a replacement for Carlos Queiroz.
“At the end, each one of us would like to win. Lhoussain Ammouta is an outstanding coach, he coached in Qatar and the relationship between the countries is very strong but in the end we will compete. We will play hard.
“It was not easy to reach the final, but we’re here. But that’s not an achievement. In Spain there is a famous saying: second place is the first of the losers. We’re not satisfied with just reaching the final, we’re here to play for the trophy. We want to be the best in Asia.”
Qatar are appearing in the final five years after winning the title for the first time in 2019 in the United Arab Emirates, with the team having overcome a series of disappointments in the interim.
Their poor performance at their home World Cup, when they lost all three games and were eliminated in the group phase under Asian Cup-winning coach Felix Sanchez, was followed by the appointment of Queiroz and a mixed run of results.
The Portuguese parted company with Qatar in December, with Lopez a last-minute appointment, but since then the Spaniard has led the team to victories over Lebanon, Tajikistan and China in the group phase.
Qatar then saw off Palestine in the last 16 before a penalty shoot-out win over Uzbekistan and a dramatic semi-final victory over Iran to qualify.
They take on a Jordan side that has defied expectations to reach the final, with Montpellier forward Mousa Tamari and fellow striker Yazan Al Naimat to the fore, notably in their semi-final win over a South Korean side that had been among the pre-tournament favourites.
“We don’t need to explain how important the final is as both teams want to win a historical title,” said Ammouta.
“We’ve prepared for the match as normal and, without adding any more pressure on the players, we hope to produce a performance that reflects our team’s level and what we produced to reach the final.”
Contact the writer of this story, Michael Church, at moc.l1709267871labto1709267871ofdlr1709267871owedi1709267871sni@o1709267871fni1709267871