A Dominant First Win For Qatar At The 2021 Gold Cup
Qatar's Al Annabi Boys were a commanding presence in Saturday 17th's match against Grenada at the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament. Hogging the ball with 89% possession throughout the game, the Qatari squad took 21 strikes at goal compared to Grenada's six shots. Four balls from Qatari players reached the back of the net, none of which were matched by the Grenadians. The final result, 4-0.
The confident win by the team from Qatar sees them sitting in second place in their group standings and, depending on their group's performances on Wednesday, July 21st, they should make it through to the tournament's quarter-finals.
Qatar, who are at the Gold Cup 2021 as a guest team, hit the ground running on Saturday evening with their first solid shot at goal coming in the 7th minute of the first half. Youngster Homam Ahmed took a punt at goal from within the box, curling it in front of the Grenadian defence. However, the shot was stopped with a dive in front of the goal by Grenada's goalkeeper Jason Belfon.
Less than four minutes later, Qatar's Abdulaziz Hatem opened the scoring with a lovely little tap into the goal from a rebounding ball. Hatem initially sought to head the ball in after a cross from Abdelkarim Hassan. An aerial punch from Belfon thwarted the attempt. However, the ball bounced backwards, hit the post and rebounded. Quick thinking from the Qatari midfielder Hatem saw the ball hit the back of the net before anyone could react.
Grenada tried to equalise in the 19th minute, but Jacob Berkeley-Agyepong's shot went slightly wide. Minutes later, with the ball firmly back in their possession, Qatar's Akram Afif lobbed the ball from outside the box into the top right corner of the Grenadian net.
Buoyed by their success, the Al Annabi Boys kept the pressure on Grenada's Belfon. Ahmed booted the ball across the penalty area from outside the box, Belfon managed to bat the attempt away. Hassan took a long-range penalty but, to the Grenadian goalkeeper's relief, the ball was marginally too high. However, a corner from Afif in the 36th minute saw Qatar's Mohammed Muntari take his first goal of the match with an excellent header.
Both teams made several other assaults on each other's goals before halftime, including a howler of a miss by Qatar's Almoez Ali and a great attempt by Grenada's Regan Charles-Cook - saved by Qatari goalkeeper Meshaal Barsham. Still, no balls reached the back of the nets.
Straight back into the thick of it after halftime, the Qatari's took the game to Grenada once again, scoring in the opening 35 seconds. Grenada's Aaron Pierre almost redirected a neat cross from Qatar's Ro-Ro, but the centre back just missed the speeding ball. Waiting for the cross was Almoez Ali, who flicked the ball home.
The following 40 plus minutes were goalless, the Qatari team content to coast towards the final whistle - though there were a few near misses in the offing. A nifty backheel from Muntari set the ball up for Hatem in the 52nd minute of the match. However, Hatem's shot at goal proved too wide. A quick run down the centre mark in the 64thn minute from Ali, with a cross to Afif, was shut down by Belfon when Afif tried to boot it home. In the 82nd minute, Ro-Ro sent a cross in front of the posts to Abdullah Al-Ahrak, but Ahrak's shot rebounded off the sticks. And, in the dying minutes of extra time, a long shot by substitute Assim Madibo produced yet another magnificent save by Belfon.
All in all, Qatar was the dominant team and certainly ran a few rings around the Grenadians. However, while Qatar are rated as a good team with a formidable coach, they will need to refrain from taking a back seat when the going is good if they want to go all the way in this tournament.
Fifteen teams from North, Central America and the Caribbean are contesting the 2021 Gold Cup in the hope of being crowned continental champions. Qatar, a guest team to the tournament, is playing to broaden their experience in the run-up to the 2022 World Cup and the ongoing strategic relations between Northern Americas and Asian football associations, CONCACAF and the AFC.
The sixteen squads were previously drawn into four groups of four. Qatar is in Group D with Grenada, Honduras and Panama. Having played and drawn 3-3 against Panama on July 13th, won over Grenada on July 17th, Qatar need only play Honduras on July 21st to complete the Group Stage round-robin. Depending on Qatar's performance against Honduras, they may have an opportunity to advance to the quarter-finals against either El Salvador, Mexico or the USA. Honduras sits at the top of the table on 6 points, Qatar is in second place on 4 points, Panama sits in third place on a single point, and Grenada is last with 0 points. Qatar needs a win or a draw against Honduras to secure their place in the next stage of the tournament - if Qatar makes either of the top two slots in their group, they will advance to the quarter-finals knockout stage. The four victors from the quarter-finals will contest the semis, and the top two teams will take on the final.
Should the team progress, the quarter-finals will be held over July 24th and 25th in Arlington, Virginia and Glendale, Los Angeles County. The semis will be held on July 29th in Austin, Texas and Huston. And, the final will take place in Paradise, Nevada August 1st.
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