Qatar’s Latest Victory Secures A Gold Cup Quarter-Final Place
On Wednesday, July 21st, Qatar sealed their victory over Honduras with a 2-0 win and paved their way to the 2021 Gold Cup quarter-finals. Qatar’s unbeaten run in the tournament so far has seen them draw with Panama 3-3, crush Grenada 4-0 and pip Honduras to the post for the top spot within their group. Both Qatar and Honduras advance to the quarter-finals, but Honduras will face off against Mexico - something both teams will have been keen to avoid at this stage in the competition. On the other hand, Qatar will take on El Salvador - an opponent they overcame 1-0 in a recent friendly. If the Qatari squad match or beat their result against El Salvador on their second meeting, the team will go forward to the Gold Cup semis.
Until recently, and because they play in the Asian football confederation, Qatar’s national team had played very few matches against CONCACAF teams from North, Central America and the Caribbean. However, as a guest team at the 2021 Gold Cup and after their first three matches of the tournament, the squad has proved their mettle against their continental counterparts. In their first match against Panama, Qatar played as a confident unit both in attack and defence in a closely contested game. Against Grenada, the team outshone their opponents and dominated the field for the majority of the game. And, opposite Honduras in another closely contested match, the Al Annabi Boys maintained the pressure on the Hondurans to get the result they needed - the upshot, a fast-paced and exciting 90 plus minutes and a place in the quarter-finals.
So, how did the match against Honduras pan out?
The action began fast and furiously with Qatar making multiple attempts to score, including endeavours from Akram Afif, Almoez Ali, Khoukhi Boualem, Bassam Al Rawi and Ro-Ro. And, though they kept possession slightly less than the Hondurans, the Qatari squad continued to press forward throughout the match, taking nineteen shots at goal compared to Honduras’ eight attempts.
Honduras came close with an opportunity in the 15th minute when star player Rommel Quioto took a punt at the posts inside the box. The Honduran player’s sprint took the ball to the Qatari posts in a wide-open field, drawing goalkeeper Meshaal Barsham out of goal. However, Qatari player Bassam Al Rawi rushed to tackle Quioto, disrupting what would have been a clear shot. Basham deflected the shot with his knee, preventing Quioto from opening the scoring. Quioto picked up an injury and was off the field for the rest of the match.
In the 25th minute, it looked as though Qatar would be denied yet another attempt to open the scoring. Hassan Al Haydos picked up a cross from Karim Boudaif and passed the ball out to Homam Ahmed left of the posts. Ahmed drove the ball home, only for Honduran goalkeeper Luis Lopez to bat the attempt away. However, the ball rebounded off the crossbar and hit the back of the net, putting Qatar up 1-0.
In the 37th minute, Qatar’s Almoez Ali looked certain to take the score to 2-0 when he took a long cross from Akram Afif and found himself almost alone in the box. However, Lopez ran onto the ball and saved the Hondurans from falling further behind. Lopez’s quick thinking denied Qatar again in the 41st minute, just before half-time. Afif’s penalty rebounded off the Honduran goalkeepers save only for Homam Ahmed to punt the ball back towards the open goal. Lopez, whose previous dive to save the ball left him on the floor, had the presence of mind to get to his feet immediately to punch away the second shot.
After half-time, the Qataris continued their assault on the Honduran goal with shots from Al Haydos, Almoez and Abdulaziz Hatem just going wide of the mark. At the 90th minute mark, it looked as though the Qataris might have to be content with a one-goal win. However, in the 94th minute, Qatari substitute Ahmed Alaaeldin took a long pass from the halfway line and ran the ball down to the box. Spotting the wide-open space and Lopez out of goal, he cut the ball across to Ahmed. Seeing the danger, Lopez ran towards Ahmed to deflect a goal attempt. Ahmed flicked the ball right to Hatem in front of the posts. Hatem then punted the ball to the back of the net, giving Qatar a 2-0 lead to complete the match.
Sixteen teams are contesting the 2021 Gold Cup - fifteen teams from North, Central America and the Caribbean, and Qatar as a guest team. The winners will be crowned continental champions, and Qatar, whatever their final place, will expand their international experience in the run-up to the 2022 World Cup as the host country.
The Group Stage, which involved sixteen squads drawn into four groups of four, has now been completed. The winners of the four groups advancing to the quarter-finals are Mexico and El Salvador (Group A), the USA and Canada (Group B), Costa Rica and Jamaica (Group C) and Qatar and Honduras (Group D). Qatar will take on El Salvador on July 25th at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. If the Qataris are victorious, they will head to the semi-finals with the three other victors from this knockout stage.
Mexico will compete against Honduras, also on the 25th. Costa Rica will go head-to-head against Canada on the 26th, and the USA will face Jamaica, also on the 26th.
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