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Asian Cup 2019: Qatar keep it low and move it fast Open in fullscreen

Uri Levy

Asian Cup 2019: Qatar keep it low and move it fast

Spot the ball: Qatar thrashed North Korea in their biggest-ever Asian Cup win [Getty]

Date of publication: 14 January, 2019

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The 6-0 victory over North Korea seals Qatar's place in the next round of the tournament.
Keep it low and move fast - this is the motto the Qatari national team has adopted in this Asian Cup. Despite many downplaying their chances before the tournament kicked off, the Annabi are one of the hottest national teams in the competition after two games played.

After the hard-fought 2-0 victory over Lebanon in their opening game, the Qataris met North Korea in their second, and it wasn't a cheerful occasion for the men of the Hermit Kingdom. 

After eleven minutes it was already 2-0 to Qatar, with Ali Almoez making the most of assists from Akram Afif and Hassan al-Heydos for a quick brace. Afif was looking for his friends all the time, and in the 43rd minute, he found Boualem Khoukhi, the Algerian-born Qatari, who made it 3-0 before halftime. 

Time to rest easy for the second half? Not if you are in this generation of Qatari footballers.

Ali and Afif continued with the same pace they finished the first half. By the 60th minute, Ali had added two more goals to make it 5-0. The first Qatari player to score a hat-trick at the AFC Asian Cup, Ali is only the fifth athlete to score four goals in an Asian Cup match, placing him in a pantheon of greats such as Iran's Behtash Fariba (in 1980, vs Bangladesh) and Ali Daei (1996, vs South Korea); Bahraini star Isamel Abdullatif (2011, vs India); and Jordanian legend Hamza al-Dardour (2015, vs Palestine).

Eight minutes later, Abdelkarim Hassan, Asian Player of the Year 2018, added another - concluding a 6-0 hammering that guarantees Qatar their place in the next round. 

But this day wasn't just about the goalscorers - Akram Afif provided assists for four of Qatar's six goals in this match, and has now assisted more goals at the 2019 Asian Cup than any other player.

This was Qatar's biggest-ever Asian Cup win and DPR Korea's biggest-ever defeat in the competition. 

Qatar attempted six shots on target, scoring every time. They also stopped North Korea from attempting a single shot on target - the fifth time a team has failed to land a single shot on target at the 2019 tournament.

Oman, led by Peem Verbeek, also took to the field on Sunday, going head to head with Japan. 

It didn't start too badly for the Omanis, but on the 28th minute, Malaysian referee Mohd Amirul Izwan made a the controversial decision to award a penalty to Japan after what seemed to be a reckless challenge by Reed Saleh. Genki Haraguchi stepped up and slotted the ball into the net for Japan.

Oman created chances, but could not convert them into goals. They even almost won a penalty, but the referee bizarrely let Japan off with what appeared to be a clear handball inside the box. 

After the 1-0 defeat, the Omanis now will play Turkmenistan and hope for a good-enough result to rank them among the best third-placed teams in their groups. 

Uri Levy runs the popular football blog BabaGol, which covers football and politics focusing on the Middle East. Follow him on Twitter, and read his blog here.

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