Qatar will have to banish the memory of their semi-final loss to South
Korea in the semi-finals of the Asian U23 Championship in Doha two years
ago when they take on Vietnam for a spot in the final of this year’s
edition in China.
Playing in front of their home crowd two years ago, Qatar fell to a 3-1 defeat against the Koreans and then failed to secure the third spot following a 2-1 loss to Iraq.
The back-to-back defeats ended Qatar’s hopes of qualifying for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, something that still rankles captain Ahmed Moein, who has been a star performer in the current tournament.
Now with only 90 minutes separating Al Annabi from a place in the final, Moein is understandably eager to avoid a repeat of their Doha disappointment.
“At the last AFC U23 Championship we finished fourth, and we are in the semi-finals again,” said the talented 22-year-old midfielder.
“This time we have to do better than we did then, and qualify for the final and hopefully become champions. We are very motivated for this game (against Vietnam), and we hope to keep doing as well as we have already done in the four games we have played so far.”
Felix Sanchez’s side are, however, flying high once again in China, and enter the game against their Southeast Asian opponents with four wins to their name following a perfect group stage campaign, and a dramatic 3-2 quarter-final defeat of Palestine.
Sanchez believes Qatar, whilst more than aware of the threat posed by Vietnam, must focus their own game, one that has seen them record four successive wins on their way to the semi-finals.
“We have watched all the games in the competition, and we know how Vietnam have been playing,” explained the Spaniard, who guided Qatar to the 2014 AFC U-19 Championship. They are an organised team, and they have very talented players. But we are going to try to play in our way and stop them doing what they usually do so well.
“In this type of (knockout) game, the small details are going to be very important, and that you can pay a big price for small mistakes.
“Hopefully, we can be effective in all the things that we know that we have to do well, and be organised enough not to allow Vietnam to play to their strengths.”
Vietnam head coach Park Hang-seo meanwhile said that the pressure is continuing to mount on his team when they take the field against Qatar.
Park’s young charges have made headlines around the world following a creditable second-place finish in Group D, and then a nail-biting penalty shootout success which saw them beat Iraq in the quarter-finals.
With an appearance in the tournament’s final only 90 minutes away, Park insists that the tournament’s surprise package now have just as much to lose as their more experienced opponents.
“After our opening (group stage) game against Korea Republic, we immediately felt the pressure,” he said.
“We know Qatar are a very strong team and that Tuesday’s match is obviously key to reaching the final. Because of that, the game has equal importance for both teams, and the pressure is as much on us as it Qatar.”
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