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Qatar, Uzbekistan in last 8
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 17 - 01 - 2011

DOHA: Qatar and Uzbekistan battled into the Asian Cup quarterfinals Sunday on a night of high drama which saw perennial under-achiever China crash out.
The unbeaten Uzbeks squandered a 2-1 lead before settling for a nervy 2-2 draw with China to seal top spot in Group A while Qatar saw off Kuwait 3-0, ensuring both sides joined already-qualified Iran in the last eight.
China – which was in with a chance of qualifying going into the final game – finished third and Kuwait last.
Qatar and Uzbekistan will next play one from Japan, Jordan and Syria of Group B Friday.
The placings for that group will be decided Monday, with the Uzbeks playing the team that finishes second and Qatar playing the group winner. Japan, one of the tournament favorites, currently tops the group.
Qatar coach Bruno Metsu said their tournament was only just beginning.
“We have qualified and being the host nation in this tournament it was very important for us to qualify. Today I am very happy,” the Frenchman said.
“We have accomplished what we set out to do but our ambition is to go well beyond this. The fans deserve it.”
Qatar stormed into the quarterfinals for only the second time in its history with a commanding performance.
Captain Bilal Mohammed got the opening goal on 11 minutes at the Khalifa Stadium after a blistering start from the 2022 World Cup hosts with Mohamed El Sayed scoring the second five minutes later.
Brazilian-born substitute Fabio Cesar put the game beyond doubt four minutes from time with a beautifully weighted free-kick that left the goalkeeper stranded.
It capped a remarkable comeback by Qatar, which lost its opening match to the Uzbeks 2-0 then rebounded to beat China by the same scoreline.
For Kuwait, it was a reality check after it won the West Asian Football Federation Championship in October on its maiden appearance then followed it up by lifting the Gulf Cup last month.
It heads home with three defeats out of three, although coach Goran Tufegdzic's job appears to be safe.
“Those two early goals caused big problems for our team,” said Tufegdzic. “In the second half I tried to get us to push forward but it is football. Our team maybe didn't have enough energy and power. Today Qatar was the better team.”
The other deciding game on the night was a topsy-turvy affair at the Al-Gharafa Stadium.
Having fallen behind early on, Uzbekistan equalized and then went ahead early in the second period through a fine long-distance effort from one-time CSKA Moscow forward Alexander Geynrikh.
Schalke midfielder Hao Junmin brought the East Asian champion level with a magnificent free-kick but despite sustained pressure China could not find a winner that would have brought qualification down to head-to-head records.
Yu Hai had given China the lead in the sixth minute, in front of a disappointing crowd of just 3,529, with Odil Akhmedov replying for Uzbekistan.
N. Korea fined $2,000
The Asian Football Confederation has fined North Korea $2,000 for failing to bring a player to an Asian Cup news conference.
The fine, announced Sunday, is the latest to be imposed on teams at the tournament in Doha, Qatar for violating the AFC's media policy. Qatar has also been fined $2,000 for the same offense while complaints against Iraq and Saudi Arabia for failing to bring players to a news conference have been sent to the AFC's disciplinary committee.
– Agence France


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