World Cup hosts Qatar stun Japan to win first Asian Cup

Qatar's defender Hamid Ismeil celebrates his goal during their 2019 AFC Asian Cup semi-final match against UAE at the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi

Asian Cup: UAE questions eligibility of two Qatar players before final

With Qatar having a point to prove about its footballing ability, Sanchez was more willing to talk about the landmark of the small Gulf nation contesting a first-ever Asian Cup final.

ABU DHABI-A protest by the United Arab Emirates over the eligibility of two Qatar players was dismissed by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) on Friday, a few hours before they were due to take to the field for the Asian Cup final.

- Qatar have as many wins and more clean sheets in the 2019 Asian Cup they had in their previous 32 games and nine tournaments combined.

While their ultimate goal will be to avoid humiliation when Qatar becomes the first Gulf nation to host the World Cup in three years' time, you get the sense that the players are on something of a mission in the UAE. "It's a great day for me and the players and the country", Sanchez said.

Japan fought back in the second half, only for Qatar to grab another goal via the penalty spot.

Their fans have been unable to travel across the Gulf to support the team because of the current political rift between Qatar and the UAE and the players appear determined to take a first major worldwide trophy home to them.

"Qatar today is a top Asian team", goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb said.

But then it will be back to work.

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"That's one of the toughest ways to lose", said a distraught Yoshida.

Qatar's present 23-man Asian Cup team consists of 14 players who are 25 or under.

Just 12 minutes into the final, Qatar edged ahead courtesy of a fine effort by Almoez, who latched onto Akram's left-wing cross and juggled the ball a couple of times before brilliantly directing an overhead kick into the far corner. Yes, he got these because of the group but he also worked really well.

But, as the game entered its closing stages, Qatar were awarded a penalty with just seven minutes remaining as Maya Yoshida was penalised for handball upon consultation with the Video Assistant Referee after match official Ravshan Irmatov initially allowed play to carry on. "But I feel proud at how we developed under pressure".

They may have fallen at the final hurdle, but that didn't stop Japan from departing the 2019 Asian Cup with their usual grace and decorum.

The Spaniard has known and worked with the majority of the squad for several years, many of them of since they were children.

The defeat was the first for Japan since being knocked out of last summer's World Cup round of 16 in a 3-2 loss to Belgium.

Both Japan and Qatar will compete in Brazil as invitees when the Copa America starts on June 14.

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