Defending champions and hosts, Qatar, managed to secure their place in the semi-final of the AFC Asian Cup with a penalty shootout win over Uzbekistan on Saturday. They will now go on to play Iran on Wednesday, with hopes they can qualify for back-to-back finals.
The match ended regulation in a 1-1 draw and the two teams remained scoreless in extra time. In the end, the difference came when goalkeeper Meshaal Barsham saved spot-kicks from Rustamjon Ashurmatov, Zafarmurod Abdirakhmatov and Jaloliddin Masharipov. It set up Pedro Correia to score the winning penalty, as Qatar edged out Uzbekistan 3-2 in penalties.
Qatar started off in fine fashion, with a couple of quick chances in the first 15 minutes. Captain Akram Afif came into the match as Qatar’s biggest scoring threat, and looked like it, stinging almost getting one past keeper Yusupov in the 11th minute.
The first score came via an own goal in the 27th minute. Al Haydos drove along the bye-line before striking a shot that deflected off Ashurmatov to force Yusupov to push the ball into his own net. With that, the score was 1-0 Qatar.
It wasn’t until the second half that Uzbekistan had any success. Hamrobekov fed the ball to Oston Urunov, who had enough space to score in the far corner with a left-foot shot across Barsham.
With the game tied at 1-1, the two teams battled it out but neither team could get one into the goal. Qatar came especially close when substitute Abdel Aziz Hatim struck one from around 25 yards out that clipped the top of the goal post. Eventually the match ended up going into penalties.
The shootout was dominated by Qatar’s goalkeeper Barsham who had three saves,willing his team to victory.
Iran Knockout Japan 2-1 to Reach Semi Finals
Earlier on Saturday, Iran knocked out four-times champions Japan after skipper Alireza Jahanbakhsh converted a penalty in the dying minutes for a 2-1 victory.
Despite Iran taking the more aggressive stance early in the match, Japan were the first to get on the board. Looking for a record fifth Asian Cup title, Hidemasa Morita gathered a pass and dribbled past Hossein Kanani to get into the box. While he couldn’t get much power on his shot, it seemed to confuse Alireza Beiranvand and the ball bounced off the goalkeeper’s leg and into the net.
Japan kept the lead until the 55th minute, when Sardar Azmoun got the ball past Mohebi with a shot from near the penalty spot. The game remained tied all the way to the 96th minute.
Ko Itakura was whistled for the foul in the penalty area and Jahanbakhsh gave goalkeeper Zion Suzuki no chance with a clean game-winner. With no time left in the game to mount a comeback, Japan were eliminated from the tournament.
Qatar vs Iran- Who Will Win?
Qatar will be slight favourites against Iran in their semi final matchup but not by much. Both teams went undefeated in the group stage but were tested in the knockout stage.
Iran were pushed by Syria in the Round of 16, winning in a penalty shoot out by the score of 5-3. They then faced the pre-tournament favourites in Japan but were able to eke out a win in the last minutes.
Qatar beat Palestine in their Round of 16 matchup by the score of 2-1. They look good to defend their title and will have the home crowd behind them to cheer them on. It seems likely that much will come down to Captain Akram Afif and how much pressure he can put on the opposing teams defense.
The winner of the Qatar vs Iran semi final will go to face either South Korea or Jordan in the Final. While South Korea were expected to make it deep into the competition, Jordan has been a surprise. After surprising Iraq in the round of 16, they were able to shut out Tajikistan in the quarters, 1-0, to qualify for the semis.
Jordan will be looking to replicate the performance on Tuesday, while South Korea will attempt to win the title for the first time in over 60 years.