By Sports Reporter/Doha
The Emir Cup in itself is the most prestigious tournament in Qatar. Teams are eager to lay their hands on the exquisite trophy and end the domestic season on a high.
But Friday’s Emir Cup final between Al Sadd and Al Rayyan is an historic occasion, even before the kick-off.
This final will always be remembered as the one where the first-ever stadium for the Qatar 2022 World Cup was inaugurated. The iconic Khalifa International Stadium is the first World Cup stadium to be completed and that too, five years before the event.
When Sadd and Rayyan step onto the pitch at the Khalifa Stadium, it will be a momentous occasion. The 2022 World Cup is an immense matter of pride for this region and the completion of the first stadium for that event will be remembered for a long time to come. So whether Sadd or Rayyan want it or not, they will be going down in history books.
And that means that both teams will go into Friday’s final with that added pressure. The winner will get the exclusive bragging rights of being the first-ever team to have won the Emir Cup at the first-ever stadium for the 2022 World Cup. A lot of firsts to be won and both teams will be eager to have their name on the trophy as this year’s winners.
This is the 45th edition of the Emir Cup. It started way back in 1972 and has since then been a grand finale of the domestic football season. The two teams facing each other in the final are veterans – as a team and when it comes to this competition.
Sadd have won it an incredible 15 times with them also having claimed back to back titles thrice — 1985 and 1986, 2000 and 2001 and most recently in 2014 and 2015. In addition to this the Wolves have been in the finals for eight times with the last one being the previous edition.
Al Rayyan players take part in a training.
In the 2016 Emir Cup final, they lost to Lekhwiya in the penalty shoot-out after the match had ended 2-2 at regulation time. That was the first time Lekhwiya had laid their hands on this trophy.
Rayyan, though not as successful as Sadd, have still won the Emir Cup a commendable six times. They have been the losing finalists a painful nine times out of which four times they have lost to Sadd. In last year’s Emir Cup, Rayyan had lost to Sadd in the semi-final stage. The Lions will be eager not to repeat these results.
If you consider the 2016-17 Qatar Stars League season, the stats don’t look too good for Rayyan. In the two matches that they have played against Sadd, they have lost 4-1 and 5-0.
Conceding nine goals is an embarrassing scenario for a team of Rayyan’ stature. Last season’s QSL champions have been struggling to replicate the lethal form they showed during their title-winning run.
They finished 12 points behind champions Lekhwiya. But they were able to produce a performance when it mattered to defeat the fancied Lekhwiya in the Emir Cup semi-finals.
A brace from Rodrigo Tabata and a strike from Musaab Khodor had helped the Lions down the Red Knights.
Rayyan will be looking towards skipper Tabata to lead the team from the front and continue his goal-scoring form.
Sadd finished second in the QSL, having pushed Lekhiwya all the way to the end. In the Emir Cup semi-final, they were able to get the better of El Jaish with a clinical 2-0 victory.
Goals from Baghdad Bounedjah and Hassan al-Haydous had helped seal that win. With the likes of striker Bounedjah, midfielder al-Haydous and their mercurial skipper Xavi Hernandez, Sadd definitely have the firepower to win Friday’s clash.
They will be favourites going into Friday’s match but the lure of the Cup competitions is its unpredictability. Can Rayyan step up to the occasion and deliver a knockout punch or will Sadd add Title No. 16 to that already crowded trophy cabinet? Will the Lions be roaring at the end or will the wolf pack emerge victorious? Lots to play for. Lots for the spectators to cheer for.
It's game on.
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